Our Staff

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Paige BartelPaige Bartel: High School Science, Algebra, and Science Lead Teacher

Paige Bartel

Paige Bartel: High School Science, Algebra, and Science Lead Teacher

Paige Bartel was raised in Oakhurst, California, just 15 miles from the south gate of Yosemite National Park, where she attended the aptly-named Yosemite High School. It was in her high school biology class, while first learning about genetics, that Paige became enchanted by education. “I was fascinated by everything we ‘didn't yet know’ and was determined to grow up and become a Nobel Prize winning researcher!” she exclaims. She took that excitement to Westmont College with her, and “once I got into science classes in college, the desire to understand why life is the way it is - only the biggest mystery on the planet - took over, and I loved every minute of scientific exploration.” With a special interest in the ethics of genetic discovery, which subsequently led her to read extensively about bioethics in our modern world, Paige graduated from Westmont with a B.S. in Cellular & Molecular biology. But, lest you think her to be only about the sciences, her studies were completed at Westmont with enough English Credits to be just 2 units short of a double major in English! Paige then came to SLO to attend Cal Poly and receive her M.A. in Education - Curriculum & Instruction with an Emphasis on Science, Math, and Technology - and then to secure her Single Subject Teaching Credential in Biology. Since then, Paige has worn many hats - both in and out of the SLOCA community - and some of them simultaneously: running two non-profits (Birth & Baby Resource Network; Mindful Mothers), working as a Doula (childbirth/labor assistant); High School Science teacher, 6th grade math teacher, Long Term Sub, Middle School Science teacher, Algebra teacher, Math Lab teacher, Teacher Tech Helper, Progress report wizard, and now Science lead. And this year, she’s back to HS Science! Whew! Throughout all of the changes and the myriad responsibilities, Paige has remained steadfast in her commitment to SLOCA because of her love for being in a community of people who are passionate about education, and actively trying to build something better for their children. She has also loved that she could work part time, honoring both her role as a mother and teacher. In her time of teaching at SLOCA, she has loved being with kids in the logic stage for the last few years. “In reality” she says “so much of science exists in the logic stage - the urge to find out ‘why is this happening?!’ is what drives so much of scientific discovery.” She acknowledges that her own schooling never placed a huge emphasis on the historical figures that contributed to our understanding of science. Working at SLOCA and learning about Classical Education has created a desire to put all the amazing discoveries into historical context, and to learn more about the scientists that made the discoveries. “I am starting a season of filling in the historical gaps, and I am starting by reading the brand new work by Pulitzer Prize winning author Siddhartha Mukherjee called ‘The Gene: An Intimate History.’” If she’s not at SLOCA, you’ll find Paige baking sourdough bread, brewing some sort of fermented drink, or camping with with her family in their vintage 60's camper.

April BodinePreschool Teacher (Track A)

April Bodine

Preschool Teacher (Track A)

April Bodine is one of the newest additions to our team at SLOCA, diving into the role of preschool teacher just this year! Growing up in Morro Bay, April was blessed with some standout teachers along the way who helped nurture her lifelong passion for learning; she remembers that, as a result of this nurturing, she was already thinking in the 5th grade about what kind of teacher she wanted to be. This desire to teach stayed with her and she went on to receive both her A.A. in Early Childhood Education and B.S. in Child Development from LaVerne University. Her education equipped her for the great work of teaching infants through kindergarten-age students in local children's centers, and then for the even greater work of beginning to raise her (now) 2- and 3 ½- year old boys for the past 3 years. Last year, April’s son started in the preschool class at SLOCA and the more she learned about Classical Education - and our school itself - the more it felt like home. Her motivation for joining the team at SLOCA is chiefly to be surrounded by passionate educators and parents. Wooed to Classical Education, by its focus on beautiful works of literature, April is enthusiastic to continue learning more about the method, homeschooling, and how it all fits into early childhood education as she begins this journey with SLOCA. Recently, April and her husband have caught the adventure racing bug, and you’re therefore likely to find her running, hiking or mountain biking, as they train for their first trail-running half marathon. “Eeeek!”

Katie BunchKindergarten Teacher (Friday Foundations)

Katie Bunch

Kindergarten Teacher (Friday Foundations)

Katie spent her childhood in Carlsbad, CA and was fortunate to have a father who nurtured her lifelong love of learning from an early age. Some of Katie’s fondest memories are of spending time with her father as he read to her. These experiences clearly made a lasting impact on her, due to the fact that one of her favorite things to do is read to her own children! Katie’s love of learning followed her to the California State University in San Marcos where she worked toward her BA in Communication - complete with a short stint in Uppsala, Sweden, studying International Media & Communications; then to the University of Southern California where she received her MA in Teaching. Right after completing her Master’s, Katie found SLOCA in the Spring of 2015 and began teaching here that Fall. She was attracted to SLOCA for the unique community, the hybrid model, and the classical approach, which she loves for the way it naturally breeds a passion for learning. This year, Katie is ready to take on the task of learning how to garden, specifically the art of cultivating an edible garden. There is always so much more to learn than you think!

Amy CallowayAmy Calloway: Admissions & Parent Care Director

Amy Calloway

Amy Calloway: Admissions & Parent Care Director

Amy Calloway has spent much of her life in the SLO County area, and can subsequently tell you just about everything you want to know about our county and all of the best places to eat and things to do therein! Amy worked for PG&E, out at the Diablo Canyon Power Plant, for almost 20 years before she came to SLOCA. She initially found SLOCA in 2007 while looking for part time work and homeschooling her son full time. Rather than finding herself a job, she ended up finding a school for her son! She then began volunteering as the playground supervisor, worked her way into the job of Nice Office Lady, assisted Susie (Executive Director), and eventually grew into her role as the Admissions & Parent Care Director, while also overseeing the office and the school store. Throughout the growth of the school, and in her roles serving the community, it is no doubt that her degrees in hard work, caring attitude, and strong work ethic have been at play. There are many things Amy loves about Classical Education at SLOCA: the integration of subjects; all levels learning the same thing at the same time; what we teach and how we teach is developmentally appropriate for each level; the character development we see through both good and bad characters that we learn about in history and literature! Amy believes that her own love of learning was sparked just by watching what the school was doing and how our teachers and staff interact with each and every student. When she’s not at school, Amy is to be found enjoying her family - she may work hard, but she also knows how to play hard, too!

Kaitlyn CutlerKaitlyn Cutler: Office Associate (A.K.A. our Nice Office Lady)

Kaitlyn Cutler

Kaitlyn Cutler: Office Associate (A.K.A. our Nice Office Lady)

Known as SLOCA's "Nice Office Lady," Kaitlyn’s is the kind, happy face that greets you when you walk through our office doors. Kaitlyn came to us in March of 2016 when her former roommate, Mrs. LaBine, alerted her to our need for someone to assist with administrative operations and the tending to student and family needs. Because she had heard so many great things about our community previously, there was no question in her mind that this was where she wanted to be! Kaitlyn originally came to SLO, from her childhood home in Quartz Hill, CA, for the purpose of obtaining her B.S. in Recreation, Parks, & Tourism Administration at Cal Poly. Her degree prepared her to dive right into work in the hospitality world, serving in customer service and meeting/event coordination at a local resort. As enjoyable the work, and as prepared for it as she was, Kaitlyn was moved to seek a different context in which to apply her gifts and training. Coming to SLOCA has been the perfect transition, as it has offered her the opportunity to support the same kind of educational experience which was so instrumental in her own life. She remembers an art history class in high school which was for her the most time-intensive and also most rewarding. Through the examination of paintings, sculptures, and architecture she was captivated by the thought-provoking connections between art and society across the span of recorded time. Kaitlyn knows that this captivation occurred because something deeper than memorization was happening. “Learning unfolds a sense of awe and appreciation for life, humble realization of your humanity. You see that there is more to understand, that this universe is more intricate than we could ever fully comprehend, and we have been given the grand gift of an opportunity to explore it. Real learning is a joy and Art History was the class that showed me that!” It’s no wonder she loves the way Classical Education fosters connections through art, literature, and history. Because of her own experience, Kaitlyn can see that “students here are gaining wisdom and understanding beyond their years about the context of our culture, the nature of the present times, and how our decisions affect the future. There is so much creativity and life that flows from the thoughts that these students are exploring - it is fascinating to be around that!” When she’s not taking care of the many community members walking through our doors or buzzing through our phone lines, you might spot her out on one of the many beautiful trails that we're blessed to have in SLO county, or even working on a new (to her) outdoor activity: skateboarding! If not outside, then she could be sharing a meal with a friend or getting to know an International Student through a local organization that helps make these students feel welcome in town. We are glad to have her in the role of welcoming people to our school as well!

Lisa Ann DillonIntermediate Lead and Teacher (Track A), Math Lead

Lisa Ann Dillon

Intermediate Lead and Teacher (Track A), Math Lead

If you’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of our History and Literature trainings, you will probably have heard Lisa Ann Dillon share fond memories of growing up in St. Louis, MO, and stories about fishing trips in the midwest! You also won’t be too surprised to find out that Lisa Ann has a B.F.A. in Theater Arts, given her obvious love of - and gift for - bringing stories to life. She can often be found reading aloud to her kids, and even to herself! After receiving her BFA from Webster University in St. Louis, Lisa Ann continued her education at Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena, receiving her credential and taking many Master’s level classes in the realm of Human Development. When she entered the credential program at Pacific Oaks College, she met professors who loved to teach and who were masters at making learning accessible for all. She remembers having been a poor student growing up who struggled to retain what she studied. When she discovered that she was a kinesthetic learner and that she could learn things on a deep level - that is when Lisa Ann’s fire was lit. She wanted to help other children develop that awareness and so pursued a teaching career. While living in Southern California, Lisa Ann taught at two different private schools grades K - 4, over a 9 year period. Her family relocated to the SLO area and, while on break from teaching to stay home with her first child (now a young man embarking on UMS @ SLOCA), Lisa Ann learned about the school from a few folks in town. “When I came and saw what was happening on campus” she says, “SLOCA had me at ‘Hello’." Ever since that fateful day in 2006, Lisa Ann has been hooked on our school, our community, and Classical Education. “Whether Classical Ed is administered well or poorly,” she says, “all students will learn! I think we are doing it beyond well and I have witnessed ordinary students become extraordinary scholars. It allows teachers to teach to the whole person which I have always cared about and by moving through the stages of the trivium, it meets the developmental needs of children at each stage.” When asked what she intends to learn in the year ahead, “Hm…” she responds, “I want to learn to cook.”

Merideth EadesMerideth Eades: Little Wonders Director and Preschool Teacher (Track A)

Merideth Eades

Merideth Eades: Little Wonders Director and Preschool Teacher (Track A)

Merideth Eades spent her early years in Southern California but, for the last 30 years, has been calling the Central Coast ‘home’. Merideth’s love of learning was cultivated in the loving hands of her mother - an educator who never stopped learning herself. She had an insatiable desire to absorb new things and, as Merideth grew up, that rubbed off on her and she couldn’t help but follow in her mother’s footsteps. Her mother was always reading about something new in education and the two would spend hours discussing it. This excitement about education prompted Merideth to pursue her B.S. in Human Development(Psychology and Child Development) at Cal Poly, and dive right into teaching. Before coming to SLOCA 8 years ago, Merideth was a Reading Recovery and First grade teacher at a local school. She decided to take a leave of absence to try her hand at homeschooling her eldest in Kindergarten. That’s when she found SLOCA, fell in love, and never looked back! While she has always considered herself a reader, Merideth wasn't exposed to a lot of the classics. Now that she has 3 children at the school, she gets to read and learn right along with them, and has subsequently been taken in by Classical Education. Merideth finds joy in the narrative approach to history and literature, and the way that her children are learning to ask questions and ponder the answers together, which has really impacted her family in a positive way. Besides taking care of three children and a husband, Merideth enjoys yoga, hiking, reading, camping and spending time with friends. She got a Ukulele for her birthday and is looking forward to learning how to play it. For this year’s recitation evening, she decided to challenge herself in memorizing a poem. Part of the reason was to show the parents the lasting impact this cornerstone element of our program will have on their children and the other was just to see if she could. Turns out she can and she even had a great time. It was fun to bring her children in the process and, as a result, she has decided to commit more poetry to memory. Maybe she’ll even recite it while playing the ukulele!

Cozy FaberCozy Faber: Development Director

Cozy Faber

Cozy Faber: Development Director

Cosenza Faber, whom you will know as Cozy (not Comfy, but Cozy!) is another one of those folk who believe that she was born with an insatiable desire to learn, and she seems to never have lost it. Growing up in Oak Park, Illinois, she would spend hours of her time just reading the dictionary! She even scheduled her senior year of high school with three back-to-back study hall periods, just so she could do research on independent projects in the library. Cozy took that fire with her to Purdue, U of I, and ultimately to San Jose State, where she received her B.A. in English. She remained in the Silicon Valley for a time, working and living inside the internet bubble, until relocating to the Central Coast with her husband and their twin girls. When it came time for their girls to begin Kindergarten, the Fabers knew that SLOCA was the best place for them. They were enchanted by the thought of reading, learning and growing together; not just with her kids, but with every single person in this community. The unification that surfaces due to books, historical topics and educational values is endless and inspirational. True to form, when the girls started at SLOCA, Cozy jumped right in with them! Because she had the time and saw a need, she threw her hat into the ring and pitched in where the help was needed. Since that time - 10 years ago - Cozy has served the school as a volunteer librarian, a “Nice Office Lady”, and now as the Development Director. Ever the champion of the growth mindset, she is currently plugging away at a Chopin Nocturne piece on the piano. “Definitely a stretch for me”, she declares, “but MAN is it a rewarding challenge!”

Emily FerrariniEmily Ferrarini, Librarian

Emily Ferrarini

Emily Ferrarini, Librarian

Growing up in Kansas City, MO, Emily was a quiet kid with a lot of free time who spent hours reading everything she could find in the library. This is probably no surprise to you if you’ve had the pleasure of meeting our dear SLOCA Librarian! Emily followed her love of all things books and libraries to the University of Kansas and Emporia State University, receiving her B.A. in English, M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction, and finally a Master’s in Library and Information Science. Emily’s education prepared her to work in public schools, university research labs, and as a children’s librarian in a public library. Five years ago, Emily initially began working at SLOCA simply as a way to stay busy while her kids were attending the school, but it has since morphed into a much more meaningful way to spend her days. Her love for Classical Education has also blossomed, for its focus on history, art, language, and literature. “It's a deeper, wider view of what humanity is, and what it can be, than anything I've seen in the current educational climate. I also get super fired up over poetry recitation!” Outside of work, Emily can be found someplace quiet with a book and her dog. In response to the question of what she wants to learn in the year ahead, Emily says “I want to perfect sourdough bread baking, and just generally spend more time in the kitchen. I enjoy it, but it's one of the first things to go when I get busy. I also plan on keeping up with the high school history reading, so my kids can stop running circles around me in the knowledge department!”

Melinda FragassoPrimary Teacher (Core & Art, Track A&B)

Melinda Fragasso

Primary Teacher (Core & Art, Track A&B)

Ms. Fragasso is among the lucky ones who can say that they grew up in SLO. After graduating from SLO High, Melinda left the Central Coast to pursue a B.A. in Psychology and Minor in Studio Art at the University of California in Irvine. Upon receiving her degree, Melinda decided that the urban sprawl of Irvine was more than she cared for, and moved a little bit closer to home while working on her teaching credentials: a multiple subject and a single subject in art from Westmont College in Santa Barbara. Before fully coming home to the Central Coast, she spent some time teaching art in Washington (the state) and also in Salt Lake City. Five years ago she heard about SLOCA and found herself intrigued by the curriculum and enamored by the philosophy and style of teaching here. She started out by simply teaching a primary/intermediate art class - before art was officially part of the curriculum! - and, the next year, she jumped fully into teaching Primary Core and Art. Since then, her love of Classical Education has grown, through the connection of literature and history, and simply because of all of the great books! It was learning to read, for her, that opened up a great big world to her. A world that her grandmother taught her was filled with places worth seeing, other cultures worth engaging, and many things worth learning about. Melinda’s grandmother, since passed, continues to have a profound effect on her life; Melinda inherited her grandmother’s piano and is feeling the call to learn how to play. When she’s not teaching reading, art, and math to her young students, Melinda is fully engaged in the parenting - and driving around! - of two teenagers. She can also be found walking, hiking, and enjoying nature, reading, drawing, and taking photographs when the opportunity arises.

Pam GerhardtPam Gerhardt: Middle School Latin Teacher & Study Lab Oversight (B4 Program)

Pam Gerhardt

Pam Gerhardt: Middle School Latin Teacher & Study Lab Oversight (B4 Program)

Pam Gerhardt hails from the Central Valley, having grown up in Fresno, CA. Her life before SLOCA has been filled with the great work of raising six children, homeschooling, farming, and many other things! Of her time spent homeschooling her children, Pam says “it often seemed like I was the one being educated. Learning about Classical Education, history, the great books and the great thinkers, art and music, and the sciences, I began to realize how much I did not know and it sparked in me that life long passion for learning.” One of her great joys in homeschooling was the opportunity to go through Sarah Weinschenk’s Latin classes with 5 of her own children. So, when expanding our Latin program in 2012 under the direction of Sarah, Pam seemed like a perfect fit! For Pam, the fact that SLOCA was a classical school was the main draw - knowing full well the emphasis on cultivating wisdom and virtue in students - but little did she know how much she would come to love the people and the community found here. Pam is often to be found, outside of SLOCA, spending time with her husband, working on their family farm, riding her bike or swimming, knitting, reading, studying Latin and history, playing with her grandchildren, meeting one of her sons for coffee, and….”yikes! There are not enough hours in a day!” And, as if that weren’t enough, in the year to come she wants to study and read the ancients, philosophy and logic.

Amy HouserKindergarten Teacher (Track B)

Amy Houser

Kindergarten Teacher (Track B)

Having grown up in Canby, Oregon, Amy is one of our team members who have called the Pacific Northwest “home”, a perfect place to stoke her early interest in living things. She has always enjoyed learning about animals and nature, with a developing fascination in human anatomy. She used to look forward to dissecting days in high school, and even audited an anatomy class in college for the pure joy of learning. Even now, she still can't part with the human anatomy books she received for Christmas many years ago! Her varied interests led her to pursue a B.A. in Diversified General Subjects from Hope International University in Fullerton, CA. Amy discovered SLOCA when she found herself at a curious crossroads: just beginning to learn about Classical Education, she was contemplating homeschooling her children, but she also desired to get back into teaching. SLOCA was a place where she could do both! Now, five years into her journey with SLOCA, Amy says her favorite aspect of Classical Education are the History cycles, because of the way they allow her to read the books aloud to her children and continue learning alongside them. Along with continually learning with her kids, Amy hopes to improve my guitar skills in the year ahead.

Guy KinnearGuy Kinnear: Middle School and High School Art Teacher

Guy Kinnear

Guy Kinnear: Middle School and High School Art Teacher

Mr. Kinnear, or “Sir Guy”, was raised in SLO, where the love of learning and creating was ignited in him. Of that time, he says “I was 7 sitting in my front yard with a pad of paper and looking at Mt. San Luis Obispo. I did a drawing of it the way anyone my age would. A geometric triangle with a scalloped pattern of snow on the top and "m" shaped birds around it. When I was done, I looked at the mountain, and I looked at my drawing, and realized they looked nothing alike. I then redrew it, this time looking back and forth between the paper and the mountain, studying the angles and textures I saw. The resulting drawing had room to grow, but it looked way more interesting. That was the day I realized that research and practice, in other words learning, makes you a better artist. The idea of "talent" would never figure into my thoughts after that.” After some years away from the area (receiving his M.F.A. in Painting from the San Francisco Art Institute and teaching Art at Azusa Pacific University) was happy to return home in 2014 to begin teaching Middle School and High School Art at SLOCA. He was thrilled to find a school that aligned with his own teaching pedagogy and espoused a method which valued finding fusion between the past and the present. When asked what he’s most likely to be doing while not at school, he’ll respond to say that it’s some combination of “wrestling my kids or painting, or painting and wrestling with my kids, or wrestling with my paintings and kidding…” Ever desirous of honing his craft, Mr. Kinnear is looking to work on more effectively using the hues of light with expressive color compositions in his painting.

Corin KorenPrimary Teacher (Core & Science, Track A)

Corin Koren

Primary Teacher (Core & Science, Track A)

While many of us can call multiple places ‘home’, Corin’s are arguably the farthest apart of any of us, with about 7,500 miles of distance between the two! Corin grew up in SLO, but has also spent a fair amount of time in Israel, where her husband’s family resides. Israel is also where Corin experienced the ignition of her lifelong love of learning. She had gone away for her first year in college, which was actually a ‘gap year’ program in Israel. That was when she realized that the things she was learning had actual implications and real impacts on millions of people around the world. She experienced first-hand how the history she was learning had been - and still was - affecting countries and people at the time she was learning it. It made her feel deeply just how important it was to expand her education and continue to always be open to learning. Her time in Israel spurred her on to work toward a B.A. in Modern Jewish Studies and a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential at the California State University of Northridge. After another trip to Israel, spending a year both living and teaching there, Corin and her growing family came back to her SLO home. She was toeing back into teaching by serving as a substitute teacher at schools throughout the city (including SLOCA) when an opportunity for a permanent position came up for the Fall of 2015. Because of her familiarity with our school - the community, the students, the teachers, and the curriculum - Corin was able to say, without a doubt, that slipping into a teaching position here just felt right. She had already come to love Classical Education for it’s simplicity; for the fact that it makes for both a broad and deep education, using some of the most classic and simple educational ideas, while maintaining complete relevance - “there is a point and reason for everything that is learned in our classrooms!” She has loved getting her feet wet this past year and is really looking forward to delving a little deeper into the wonders of Classical Education. With two young children, life is pretty full; but, if Corin is not driving them around, grocery shopping, cooking, or cleaning the house, you might find her at the beach volleyball court, or possibly even on a bike ride. She also loves spending time with friends and family, big dinners, park playdates, etc. Finally, she really enjoy debriefing and having great conversations with her husband (once the kids have gone to sleep!)

Alanna LaBineAlanna LaBine: Upper Middle School Math & Science Teacher

Alanna LaBine

Alanna LaBine: Upper Middle School Math & Science Teacher

Mrs. LaBine has sometimes been compared to Anne Shirley, and the similarities extend far beyond the hair color of L.M. Montgomery’s beloved character! Possessing the same insatiable desire to understand why things are the way they are - and talk about them with anyone and everyone who will - Alanna has known from a very early age that she would someday be a teacher. From the first day of preschool, she recalls loving school and learning about the world around her. Every year she would declare “this is the grade I want to teach when I grow up!”...only to say the same for each subsequent grade level. Alanna chose initially to pursue her education in the field of science, obtaining a B.S. and M.S. in Materials Science Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. While forging ahead on the path toward a Ph.D., working in a lab doing research at the University of Florida, in Gainesville, Alanna couldn’t help wishing that she was teaching instead! During that time, Alanna came to know a SLOCA family, and through a relationship with them, she fell in love with Classical Education, with our hybrid program, and with our community. She knew she just had to be a part of what we are doing here, and when we heard of her deep desire to inspire students in the logic stage to pursue further studies in the fields of Science and Engineering, combined with her excitement about Classical Education, we were equally convinced! Alanna began teaching with us in the summer of 2015, teaching in our summer science camp, and transitioning in the fall to teaching UMS science and Pre-Algebra. Alanna is thrilled to have traded in her lab partners for SLOCA students, sterile labs for the great outdoors, and laboratory research projects for those taking place in the kitchen and garden. Her current research project is focused on the problem of keeping herbs alive in her home garden! Sounds like a great project for this year’s Investigation Celebration...

Nicholas LarsonNicholas Larson: High School Spanish Teacher

Nicholas Larson

Nicholas Larson: High School Spanish Teacher

Senor Larson, along with that of High School Spanish Teacher and occasional Enrichment Teacher, proudly holds the (self-proclaimed, but undisputed) title of “male with the longest hair”. Even more natural than his mane is Nicholas’ happy and subtle sense of humor - you can often spy him wearing wearing sweatshirt culled from a local thrift store emblazoned with the title “Cal Poly Grandpa” or even “Stanford Grandma” (of which he is clearly too young to be either). Nicholas grew up in Sacramento, CA, in a context in which he says education was not greatly valued, but rather something that was an arbitrary requirement. “One day when I was in the eighth grade,” he relates “my mom explained how some cultures, like the ancient Greeks, wanted to learn everything about everything, just for the sake of knowledge and the enjoyment of it. I don't know why, but that changed something in me. I chose to go to high school and learn just for the sake of learning, for the richness that it brought to my life.” He was inspired, only in his senior year of high school, to seriously consider a college education. This led him to Cal Poly in SLO, where he studied his way to a B.S. in Kinesiology. After graduating, he stuck around the area and worked as a substitute teacher for various schools around the county. This stepping-stone proved instrumental in his journey toward SLOCA, as it allowed him the opportunity to get a feel for every grade from Kindergarten through HS. He knew he wanted to teach Spanish, but wasn't sure at what level. In the end, he fell in love with teaching at the high school level, and in 2014 came to SLOCA to do just that. Like all of the faculty at SLOCA, he fell in love with our educational philosophy and knew that he wanted to be a part of it, but it wasn't until after he began working here that he learned how wonderful our community is. His greatest joy at SLOCA is observing the students who have put a Classical Education into practice, seeing them embody what they learn - they inspire him! Outside of teaching, Nicholas is passionate about music, reading, writing poetry, eating colorful food, and acquiring new languages - he’s just begun to learn French (“Why not?!”)

Ann LorenzenAnn Lorenzen: Middle School Logic & Rhetoric Teacher, Student Council Facilitator

Ann Lorenzen

Ann Lorenzen: Middle School Logic & Rhetoric Teacher, Student Council Facilitator

Miss AnnE (emphasis on the E), as she is known at SLOCA, is originally from the Los Angeles area, having grown up in Hollywood and Altadena. It was there, at about the age of 4---maybe younger---when her dad read two books from his boyhood to AnnE and her brother: "Down the Big River" and "The Bears of the Brandywine." She had been learning to read before those readings and from that moment on she was on fire to learn to read and write. AnnE embarked on further education at Mount St. Mary’s in L.A. and the California State University, Los Angeles; she continues her education today with degrees underway in the fields of Philosophy and Linguistics. AnnE had been working as a full-time middle school and high school Youth Minister, and with Special Ed clients at San Luis Obispo High School before coming to SLOCA in 2006. The transition to SLOCA offered her the opportunity to expand a summer school curriculum to a full school year experience, as she had been delivering an Argument 101 and 201 course for Cuesta's College for Kids through Cuesta College's Community Programs. AnnE loves Classical Education for its use in creating, building a bridge (nexus) between the classical thought(s) of the masters of thinking and the lives of contemporary middle schoolers and their families. When she’s not thoroughly engaged in conversation with our Middle Schoolers, Miss AnnE can be found busily reading, writing, and interviewing family members for my memoir-in-progress. In the year ahead she wants to attack her own Introduction to Classical Greek, so that she can understand even more Greek root words and concepts.

Erin LutonErin Luton: Safety Team Lead & Assistant to the Dean

Erin Luton

Erin Luton: Safety Team Lead & Assistant to the Dean

Erin was born in Arizona, but considers a far more lush environment to be home, having lived in the Puget sound region of Washington for most of her life. Erin always loved school and even remembers pretending to have homework at the age of 5. Learning has always been something she valued and she continues to embrace it each and every day. This love of learning went with her to Washington State University (“Go Cougs!”), where she received her B.A. in Humanities with an emphasis in English. With her education complete, Erin set out to engage fully in the education of her own children - volunteering in classrooms and in the PTA. She had a hunch that some day all of those years of experience would be useful, and indeed that proved to be true when she found SLOCA in a job hunt after moving to SLO in 2015. Erin had never heard about Classical Education before finding us, but has come to appreciate how the method embraces art, literature, and history. Aside from that, she loves kids and loves learning, so working on the Safety Team at SLOCA seemed like a good fit, and she was right! Since coming aboard, Erin has quickly grown into her role as Safety Team Lead and Ashley's (our Dean of Students & Safety) right hand (wo)man. Outside of school, Erin can be found in all manner of environments, doing all sorts of activities: hiking, bike riding, playing disc golf or tennis, at the beach, or exploring new areas with family; reading, cooking, or going for walks in solitude. Erin loves to dabble in all sorts of activities, and so when she is asked to tell you something she wants to learn, her reply is: “Something? How about somethings (plural)! My go-to method for summer fruit desserts is a cobbler but I am determined to make a pie that I am satisfied with! Plus I recently learned how to play chess so I would like to learn new moves so that I can beat my oldest son. Oh! And read more of the literary classics that I regretfully never read (I am currently in the middle of Jane Eyre). And lastly, when we lived in Washington, we had a produce farm, so much of my time was spent gardening and preserving the literal fruits of our labor. Now that we are in SLO, I haven't done anything like that so I would like to get back to growing our own produce (if only a little)...” Whew!

Paul McCulloughPaul McCullough: High School Literature Teacher

Paul McCullough

Paul McCullough: High School Literature Teacher

William Stafford once said that you have to teach kids NOT to be poets, and Mr. McCullough’s personal history has led him to believe this to be true. Everyone loves to be read to, and through his own experience of this, Paul became a voracious reader as a kid. But then high school came along and he stopped caring about everything except skateboarding, music, and girls. How much of this was his own short-sightedness and how much of this was a product of his rather narrow and uninspiring cultural milieu (Silicon Valley at the turn of the millennium)? Having a bad-luck-run of apathetic teachers during his junior and senior years didn't help either. Paul drifted through most of his freshman year at Cal Poly getting B minuses and nodding off in the back of huge lecture halls--until he took two classes simultaneously: a class called Great Books: Romanticism through Modernism taught by the inimitable Robert Inchausti, and Introduction to Philosophical Classics taught by Ken Walker, to which and whom he owes an enormous debt of gratitude. Those two professors had opposite teaching styles in nearly every way, but both showed him that there were important things to be found in books--things that he desperately needed to hear. He started reading voraciously again because he wanted to know what they knew. (He maintains that he will never come close.) That was years ago now, but in many ways he’s still reeling from the electric shock of reading Tolstoy, Melville, Plato, and company for the first time. That's how his subsequent journey began, anyway: from undergrad at Cal Poly to pursuing a M.A. in English at the University of Iowa, and then on to Yale Divinity School for a M.A.R. in Theology. Paul stayed on the East Coast for a while, Teaching at the Westover School, an all-girls boarding school in Middlebury, CT. “It was a lot like Gilmore Girls, but with fewer commercial breaks.” Alas, the West Coast was calling to him, and SLOCA offered him the perfect opportunity to come back home. He was wooed by the small class sizes, the students who love books, and the sense that we - the entire community - are in it together. In his first year at SLOCAHS he has already worn many hats: Teacher of English, Master of Athens House, Leader of Book Clubs, Senior Project Director, and Occasional Blogger. When he’s not diving into literature with the students at SLOCAHS, Mr. McCullough can be found skateboarding around the mean streets of Los Osos, reading in Linnaea's, tilling his little plot of ground, backpacking in Big Sur, batting leadoff and playing centerfield for the Royals (SLO Men's Baseball League), and attempting to cultivate various forms of constructive idleness. His own search for greater understanding and personal education has lately sent him on an investigation of comparative cosmology.

Cade NewmanCade Newman: Upper Middle School Lead and History/Literature Teacher

Cade Newman

Cade Newman: Upper Middle School Lead and History/Literature Teacher

Mr. Newman was raised in Hanford, in California’s Central Valley. Here in this hub of agricultural trade, something else began to take root in Cade’s life when he read Les Miserables in high school: a deep and abiding love of learning through literature. Taking that newfound excitement, and escaping the summer heat and dense winter fog for which the Valley is known, Cade came to Cal Poly in SLO to pursue a B.A. in English, as well as a M.Ed. Just over a year ago, as Mr. Newman had settled into his career, having taught Language Arts for 15 years at a local public school, the opportunity came for him to transition into a teaching role at SLOCA. Cade has been involved at SLOCA for quite some time: he and his wife chose SLOCA as their preferred way of educating their children; and, over time, his commitment to the community grew, prompting him to serve on the Board of Directors for the school. Because he could see first-hand the efficacy of Classical Education in the lives of his own children, Cade could hardly resist the opportunity to fully take part in the Great Conversation and help more students find their voice therein. In the year ahead, Cade is looking forward to delving deeper into his study of our Founding Fathers; with our upcoming year in the history cycle, there will be no shortage of resources to aide him in this endeavor!

Jennifer PerneelPrimary Lead and Teacher (Core & Science, Track B)

Jennifer Perneel

Primary Lead and Teacher (Core & Science, Track B)

Mrs. Perneel couldn’t tell you when, in her childhood days in Morgan Hill, CA, she first discovered her love of learning, or even when she first learned to read; what she can tell you is that the love of learning is just part of her, and her mother would tell you that Jennifer ALWAYS had her nose in a book as a child. Her passion prompted her to pursue a B.S. in Child Development at Cal Poly, and top it off with a credential from Chapman University. Anyone who has met Jenn knows that she was meant to be a teacher! There was a time, however, when Jenn was not so certain about her teaching career. She was working in a local public school district and, finding herself discouraged, was just about ready to leave the world of teaching behind. That’s when she stumbled upon SLOCA. The blog (no website yet!) showed a school that was everything she had wanted to be a part of when she grew up. Jenn likes to say that SLOCA saved her teaching career. Since coming to SLOCA in 2006, Jenn has served in the roles of Primary Teacher, Lead Teacher (Primary and Friday Foundations), Level 1 and 2 Math Teacher, Primary Science (Track B) Teacher, and a proud SLOCA parent! Jenn’s reasons for loving Classical Education are many: the integration of beautiful books and history into the daily lives of her students; the fact that Classical Education believes young ones can, in fact, handle substantial content; that she is able to teach students HOW to think, not WHAT to think; she is able to spark something in every single one of her students through a literature story or piece of history; she could go on…! Outside of the classroom, Jenn focuses on being a mama to her two busy kids and wife to her husband of 14 years, cooking for family and friends, and she loves to read. Did we mention that yet?! Her 7 year old daughter, who just took up crocheting and sewing and is hopeful to teach Jenn as well. Jenn’s wishing her daughter better luck than her Home Ec. teacher had!

Kaitlyn PerryKindergarten-Intermediate Music Teacher

Kaitlyn Perry

Kindergarten-Intermediate Music Teacher

Kaitlyn is one of the few among us who call the Midwest home, having been raised in Omaha, Nebraska. Kaitlyn always loved learning and being a student; however, through the example of her history teacher, her senior year of high school is when that lifelong passion was truly fanned to flame. This teacher modeled for Kaitlyn what it meant to look beyond what the textbooks say, and truly examine all subjects from multiple angles with the bigger picture in mind. It was after taking that class that she really started to crave deeper learning and be able to appreciate education as a gift and not just a box to be checked on life’s to-do list. With an open mind and a readiness to learn, Kaitlyn hop-skipped over the borders of Iowa and Missouri to Greenville Illinois, to pursue her Bachelors of Music Education for K-12 vocal and instrumental music. After college, she relocated to SLO and dove into teaching private music lessons at Music Motive. Kaitlyn came to us in December of 2013 after hearing about us in the community and becoming intrigued by the Classical Education framework. Hearkening back to what inspired her love of learning, she was refreshed to see that the point of Classical Education is not to "teach to the test", but rather to teach students to learn at a deeper level. When she’s not at school she can usually be found teaching her private music lessons (40 students!), or finding ways to be outside as much as possible. Kaitlyn loves to run, hike, paddleboard, go to the beach, and find new places to explore. In the year ahead, Kaitlyn would love to learn Spanish and how to surf - if you know any Spanish-Surfing instructors, send them our way!

Tiffany RatliffTiffany Ratliff: Events & Volunteer Coordinator

Tiffany Ratliff

Tiffany Ratliff: Events & Volunteer Coordinator

Tiffany grew up in Paso Robles, in the loving home cultivated by her mother, Amy Calloway (recognize the name?!) Tiffany attended Cuesta College, where she received her A.A General Studies A.A Hospitality Management. Before coming to SLOCA in 2014, Tiffany had been working full time for a private country club and was looking to use her gifts in a more positive environment. When SLOCA began looking for someone to help coordinate volunteers and manage our many events and hospitality needs, it seemed only natural to Tiffany to join the community that had such a positive impact on her family. She had been able to see first-hand what an incredibly rich education was being offered here. Tiffany has a penchant for overseas travel, combined with philanthropic ventures (a passion which was ignited on a journey to India) and would someday like to found her own charitable organization. When she’s not coordinating volunteers and events at SLOCA, Tiffany can be found indulging in fine wines and cheeses, and jumping on planes for last-minute trips to every corner of the globe.

Wendy ReyWendy Rey: Lower Middle School Teacher (Core, Track A&B, and Science, Track B

Wendy Rey

Wendy Rey: Lower Middle School Teacher (Core, Track A&B, and Science, Track B

Wendy Rey has been a steady presence in our community since the very beginning, and her roles here seem to morph every 5 ½ years - from Nice Office Lady to Little Wonders Teacher, and now to Lower Middle School Teacher! Coming to SLO from Sacramento in order to obtain a B.S. in Social Sciences, Wendy and her husband stayed in the area to raise and homeschool their sons. That was when her love of learning was really sparked. Of this time, she recalls, “this different kind of ‘Classical Education’ was introduced to me for the very first time and I knew I wanted something different for my own children. It was in 2005 when that spark grew to a flame. SLOCA has made the most profound impact on me personally and how I view education and the importance of being a lifelong learner.” Wendy happily took the Nice Office Lady position the first year SLOCA started; then, she eagerly jumped into the Little Wonders teaching position when her children were older and she realized once again how much she loved being in the classroom. In this time, her love of Classical Education has grown, for the way it aims to teach the whole child, cohesively integrating all subjects while also focusing on character growth. You are most likely find Wendy laughing and playing games with her family, reading a book, hiking, riding her bike, cooking, or sharing coffee with a friend. As she jumps into a new teaching position at SLOCA, Wendy knows that there will be a lot to learn. Finding creative ways to stimulate deep thinking in a fun and engaging way is a general skill she want to grow in; specifically, she want to become "Grammar Girl"!

Steve ReinSteve Rein: High School Math Teacher

Steve Rein

Steve Rein: High School Math Teacher

Dr. Steve Rein, in all of his years of attending or working in educational institutions, has been surrounded by mascots of either the horse or bear variety. Growing up in Goleta, his high school mascot was the charger; in his undergrad at UCLA, where he received his B.A. in Economics, the bruin; while working toward his M.A. and Ph.D. in Statistics at UC Berkeley, the bear; he currently resides in Los Osos (“the bears”); teaches in the Statistics Department at Cal Poly, home of the Mustangs; and also teaches Geometry at SLOCA, whose mascot was recently named: the Grizzlies. What are the odds? He could probably tell you - what with his mastery of statistics - but who can say what the meaning might be?! Silly ponderings aside, Steve has been a part of the SLOCA community almost from the beginning, with his kids starting out here in the second year of the school. Then, in the first year of the High School, Dr. Rein jumped into teaching Geometry as an opportunity to get more involved in the education of his kids and other members of their community. Steve has greatly appreciated Classical Education for the multidisciplinary nature of the curriculum and also the willingness of the students to thoughtfully discuss any and every topic. Much like them, Steve liked just about everything about school (except for spelling) and has continued to enjoyed learning new things and thinking over the issues that come up in life. The next new thing to learn on his docket: the programming language of Python.

Kateri ReinKateri Rein: High School & Enrichment Director

Kateri Rein

Kateri Rein: High School & Enrichment Director

Kateri was raised in Kennewick, Washington, and loved school as a child. That love suffered in high school but was revived at Mills College when, while working toward her B.A. in Sociology, an interest in the field of education was sparked. As her children started heading towards school, she delved further into her research on education and was inspired by the classical model. She and her husband made the decision to homeschool because she was, above all, excited about learning again, invigorated especially by the idea of learning with her children. Kateri and her husband found SLOCA in 2006 and, due to the resonance between the school and their own desires for their family, SLOCA was a natural and good fit. Since then, Kateri’s role at SLOCA has grown along with the school: starting as the Kindergarten afternoon teacher, then added coordinating Academy Classes, which turned into overseeing Enrichment, and soon after developing the High School program! Her great joy in working here comes in seeing the thoughtfulness, wisdom, and expression that develop throughout high school and are especially profound in our juniors and seniors. In the year ahead, Kateri has two goals: reading the high school books along with her children and embracing cooking. Of her goals she says “the benefit of my youngest going to high school is that my children are reading the same books again, and I can't pass up the opportunity to join them. I miss when we were all reading the same literature! And cooking... well, it is just not my favorite thing to do, but my sister is an inspiration and cheerleader, so I have decided to work on my culinary skills and attitude!”

Sarah RootKindergarten Teacher (Track A)

Sarah Root

Kindergarten Teacher (Track A)

After taking a year off to stay home with her new baby (her third, impossibly bright-eyed, boy!), Mrs. Root is back in her role of teaching Kindergarten at SLOCA. Sarah was raised locally and, in the 5th grade, caught the learning bug from her teacher. It was obvious that her teacher loved educating, and her enthusiasm and passion for learning new things was contagious! Because of her teacher’s example, Sarah viewed learning as something wonderful and desirable. Following that example, Sarah pursued a B.A. in Psychology, M.A. in Teaching with an Elementary Ed. Emphasis, and her Multiple Subject Teaching Credential through Chapman University. Her education set her up for various roles: working at Santa Barbara County Mental Health in Children & Adolescent Services/Crisis Intervention; Teaching 3rd Grade P.E., Teaching Reading Intervention to 3rd-5th grade students; Coaching 3rd-6th grade Track; and even Teaching a K-2nd grade cooking enrichment class. Sarah was first enticed to join the community at SLOCA because she loved the idea of getting to teach with rich literature. Of her encounter with SLOCA, she says “It was so exciting to me to see a school that loved and praised literature. I had been collecting classic picture books since high school for my someday students and someday children and it was just super exciting to see it in action at SLOCA!” Sarah started with us in the Fall of 2010, and continues to build a love for Classical Education, for the way it builds a solid foundation in core skills and that each skill builds upon the next in a natural, progressive, and logical flow. “I also love, love, LOVE that we teach across the curriculum and tie everything together with history and literature. I think it creates such a meaningful context for our kids to be able to connect with!” she exclaims. When she’s not at school, Sarah is busy chasing around 3 boys and her husband, running long distances (half marathon being her favorite), hiking local trails, swimming, or going to the Santa Barbara Zoo. In between the outdoor adventures, Sarah can be spied sewing, reading, and trying new recipes (“reading through a cookbook with lots of illustrations is just bliss!”) She is really interested in learning how to quilt and becoming proficient at it enough to create a beautiful, keepsake quilt using the baby clothes all her boys have worn that have memories tied to them.

Sarah ShotwellSarah Shotwell: High School History Teacher

Sarah Shotwell

Sarah Shotwell: High School History Teacher

Sarah belongs to that group of SLOCA staff who found themselves living all over the West Coast, and especially spent time in Seattle, Portland, and Granite Bay (Sacramento). As far back as she can remember, Sarah has always been a researcher. “I also had a precocious vocabulary,” she says “which puzzled my parents.” She didn't have google back then, but what she did have was an encyclopedia from the 60s in the basement. Sarah remembers being five or six, and right after learning to read, going through the pages of the encyclopedia to memorize all the different breeds of dogs and their various traits. That's how her vocabulary started growing. She learned that Labrador Retrievers were "Gregarious." Chows were "Temperamental." Dachshunds were "Obstinate." This curiosity later expanded to a curiosity about history and politics and theology. “I think I just got in the habit of going and finding the answers to my questions. The internet is now my own personal disneyland. Weee!!” Sarah’s exuberance led her to Cal Poly for her BA in History, and then to the University of Washington for a MFA in Creative Writing. Putting those creative writing skills to good use, she was working in wine marketing as a writer and communications specialist. Wine writing was the first writing she ever had published nationally. “I wrote the sumptuous, artsy descriptions on the backs of the labels. You can still find them in Vons!” In 2012 her heart turned to teaching - “I wanted to hang with smart teenagers all day, and SLOCA had the best teenagers!” She also fell in love with Classical Education’s emphasis on the rich study of history. Sarah believes that nothing is more important in the development of aware, civic-minded beings - and she gets to be a part of that process every day. When she’s not diving into history with the students at SLOCAHS, Sarah is most likely to be spied in the front window of Steynberg gallery with a breakfast burrito, compulsively revising the novel draft she’s been working on for three years while simultaneously updating her band’s social media accounts. Sarah is currently pondering about effective activism, particularly regarding the causes of the drought in California and what can be done at the local, state, and national level about this dire situation that we've inherited. She wants to know what the problems are so that we can work to fix them, and subsequently to educate her students while modeling for them civic-mindedness and community responsibility.

Ronelle StowellRonelle Stowell: Intermediate Teacher (Core, Track B & Friday Foundations)

Ronelle Stowell

Ronelle Stowell: Intermediate Teacher (Core, Track B & Friday Foundations)

Ronelle was raised in the Bay Area of California and, as far back as she can remember, she has always loved learning. Indeed, one would have to have quite a love of learning if they were to tackle the intense work that goes along with obtaining a B.S. and M.A. in Psychology and still be fired up enough to go on to receiving a Ph.D. in Clinical Ecosystemic Child and Family Psychology, as she did! Before coming to SLOCA in 2012, Ronelle had been working in the world of mental health and balancing life as a homeschool mom. She found SLOCA initially for her kids and, due to her love of working with children, her growing affection for the community, and a deep appreciation for the Classical model, there was no question in her mind that she’d also love to work here. Ronelle taught at SLOCA for three years (a majority of that time in the Primary level), and, after taking a year off to be with her family, we are happy to welcome her back to SLOCA in the role of Intermediate teacher. When she’s not at SLOCA, you are bound to find her shuttling her kids around the county to their various extracurricular activities or perhaps soaking up a good book. In the year ahead, and in the midst of all the busyness, Ronelle would love to learn yoga.

Tony TaylorTony Taylor: Upper Middle School and High School Math and Theater Teacher

Tony Taylor

Tony Taylor: Upper Middle School and High School Math and Theater Teacher

When you are first introduced to Tony Taylor as a math teacher, you may be tempted to take this primary role of his at SLOCA and attach to him whatever preconceived ideas or silly stereotypes you hold of math teachers. Resist the temptation, because if ever there was a person at SLOCA to fit the title of “renaissance man”, it would be Mr. Taylor! Consider that, when asked to declare his favorite piece of literature, he responds with: “Winnie-the-Pooh, by A.A. Milne, AND The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky”. This variety of interests extends beyond his literary preferences, as Tony’s passion for learning has led him to excel in the fields of philosophy, mathematics, theater, education, and writing. Tony grew up in South East England, just outside of London, originally thinking he might become an actor or a novelist. He pursued his education at Bristol University, where, reading books that would change his world, his lifelong passion for learning was truly ignited. After receiving a B.A. with Honors in Philosophy, Tony continued on to secure a Post Graduate Certificate in Education from the Bath Spa University. Over a decade ago, Tony and his family came to SLO, merely in pursuit of a short holiday from England. By some extraordinary twist of fate, they remain to this day! In addition to working as a writer and editor for various books and articles, Tony has periodically worked with the Pacific Conservatory for the Performing Arts, teaching acting and the Alexander Technique. His love of writing and the theater are about to merge, as he plans to write a play in the year ahead. Tony came to SLOCA back in 2012 when he saw an ‘advert’ we had placed for teachers. Due to a prior knowledge of the school and a firm belief in the value of Classical Education, there was no question in Tony’s mind that he would like to work with us. It is no wonder that he holds Classical Education in high esteem, for the way it teaches children to love great books, that they, too, might someday list the works of Milne and Dostoyevsky among their favorites.

Brenda TebbetsBrenda Tebbets: School Store Coordinator

Brenda Tebbets

Brenda Tebbets: School Store Coordinator

Brenda is another one of our team who has worn many hats, and whose role has continually evolved, here at SLOCA. Hats have included: yard duty staff, bookstore clerk, Assistant to the Development Director, and now the School Store Coordinator. She had planned on being on campus to help with allergy education - it being an issue of great personal significance. Once the Dean of Students realized she would be around to help all day, she was hired to help with the Playground. One thing led to another and now she is part of the team which brings all of the lovely books, fun merchandise, and essential curriculum to the school store. Brenda’s own lifelong passion for learning did not start until her children started this school. Disenchanted by the educational system and her own lack of success as a student, Brenda was looking for a way to educate her boys that would not leave them with a bitter taste in their mouths. After their first observation of SLOCA, she and her husband knew they had found something very special here. Now, she’s reclaiming her own education by educating her boys at SLOCA. Learning history in chronological order has helped her personally better understand our past. “We were fortunate to start with the Ancients,” she says, “and going through the time periods a second time has enriched their education more deeply. She and her husband have the joy of seeing their children make connections between different time periods and civilizations. She loves that she and her husband are involved with their children's education. When not tending the school store, Brenda is most likely to be found driving and waiting for her kids while they are at gymnastics (6 days a week!) She also spends a good amount of time searching online for crockpot recipes so dinner will be done when they get home!

Susie TheuleSusie Theule: Executive and Visionary Director

Susie Theule

Susie Theule: Executive and Visionary Director

Susie is pretty sure that when she came into this world, making her debut in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, she was absolutely filled with the love of learning. That fervor died down somewhere by the time she reached 8th grade, but was rekindled while taking her required literature classes in college. Now, that passion for continual learning and growth - and anyone who has spent 5 minutes with her can attest to this - is insatiable. It’s no wonder she’s such a firm believer in the importance of studying the humanities, no matter the course a person’s career may take - she is a first-hand witness to the power the humanities hold in stoking a person’s lifelong love of learning. Emboldened by her undergrad experience, Susie forged ahead on the path to obtaining her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the Rosemead School of Psychology at BIOLA University. After grad school, it looked like the course of her life was pretty well set: set up a private practice as a long-term therapist, grow a (fairly large) family, and delve into the time-honored tradition of DIY home improvement. Alas, her life took an unexpected turn when, in her hunt for an amazing education for her own children, she became smitten by Classical Education. Why smitten, you ask? “Mercy!” she exclaims, and then proceeds to declare that it’s because of the way Classical Education prepares us to take part in the Great Conversation, and that we can ride the coat-tails of those who came before us. “The literature! The integration of subjects! The depth!” This introduction to Classical Education opened up a new path to her, and two years before the school opened its doors, Susie was working vigorously to make SLOCA a reality. From the early days of Co-Directing the school and into her current role of Executive and Visionary Director, Susie’s focus remains on ensuring the best education possible for her children, and all of the children at SLOCA. In the rare moments when she is not hard at work on all things SLOCA, Susie’s most cherished activities revolve around her family: out-cheering anyone in the crowd at her kids' sporting events, camping locally, and cultivating their home. Her latest endeavor within the home involves working on her her skill of making coconut yogurt (although she admits she hasn't nailed that quite yet) and, if that goes sour, she also has a knitting skill in mind.

Edna TonkoEdna Tonko: Assistant to the Admissions & Parent Care Director

Edna Tonko

Edna Tonko: Assistant to the Admissions & Parent Care Director

Mrs. Edna is likely one of the most oft-moved, and widely traveled, of our SLOCA staff. Edna was raised in Arizona, went on to Minot State University in North Dakota for her B.S. in Elementary Ed, transitioned to the University of New Mexico for her M.S. in Special Education; furthermore, she has visited countless locations and inhabited many homes, all due to being part of a proud military family. There are few places Edna hasn’t been to - and if she hasn’t been there, you can bet she has plans to go there soon! In her most recent transition, Edna came to SLOCA two years ago when she and her husband decided to enroll their two boys (one whom is a recent SLOCAHS graduate) at the school. The Tonkos originally chose to homeschool full time in order to take in the richness, uniqueness, history and personality of each location they’ve had the privilege of residing. Having already ascribed to the classical model in their homeschool education, transitioning to SLOCA, with a community full of like-minded families, was only natural. While her children were in class, Edna hopped into just about every volunteer opportunity we had during the school day: safety team member, temporary Nice Office Lady, Friday Morning breakfast set-up, Admissions Assistant, etc. No task was too small, no hour too early, for which Edna (and occasionally her boys) would show up and give 100%. It was only natural - due to her obvious dedication, her utmost professionalism, and her belief in Classical Education - that Edna transition into a more permanent role working in Admissions. Edna believes wholeheartedly in the efficacy of Classical Education, as it embraces the study of the liberal arts as well as the sciences within its pedagogy - no need for the labels of “AP, Honors, AB, and other certifications that schools ‘must have’ in order for their student to attend the ‘right’ college.” Because of Classical Education, there is no need for such labels - it just works! She laments that she herself was not given the kind of foundation which her boys now have - a foundation which would have enriched her experiences abroad. Traveling as a young adult made her realize how little she knew about history, architecture, literature, languages, etc. The beauty of Classical Education is that, because she has been able to learn alongside her boys during their school years - she reads as many of the SLOCAHS books as she can! - she is able to explore every new location with them, with the shared knowledge Classical Education has given them.

Amy TurnerJr Kindergarten Teacher (Track B)

Amy Turner

Jr Kindergarten Teacher (Track B)

Mrs. Turner is among the ranks of people who first discovered their love of learning at the hands of their Kindergarten teacher. Describing her teacher, Amy says “Mrs. Bell was my everything!” Her memories of that magical time are filled with learning how to jump rope, sing in spanish, read, write, and generally learning all about the world. It is perhaps because of this experience as a Kindergartener that Amy has such a heart for young children, delighting in them for their natural honesty and curiosity. She started out her career in Southern California, where she grew up, working as a reading tutor for LAUSD. When she and her husband began growing their family, Amy decided to focus on nurturing a love of learning in her own children. In 2012, with her children attending SLOCA, she jumped at the chance to be part of the Little Wonders program. Amy believes wholeheartedly in Classical Education and the study of rich history and literature; because, through it, children know their place in the world and how they are connected to the past. She knows that this invaluable knowledge shapes the kind of wise leaders the world needs. When she is not in school, reading, spending time with family or going on adventures with friends, you can find Amy hard at work in her home - her next project to tackle is to tile her bathroom and is determined to do it herself. Wish her luck!

Caroline VaccaroCaroline Vaccaro: Art Teacher (Kindergarten & Intermediate), Enrichment Teacher (B4 Program) and Academy Class & Club Coordinator

Caroline Vaccaro

Caroline Vaccaro: Art Teacher (Kindergarten & Intermediate), Enrichment Teacher (B4 Program) and Academy Class & Club Coordinator

Caroline is a Central Coast woman, through and through. She grew up in San Luis Obispo, and went to Westmont College in Santa Barbara where she received a B.A. in Art and a B.A. in Business and Economics. It was at Westmont, in her very first college art history class, when Caroline realized she was in love with learning. She was working in the world of Technology and Pharmaceutical Sales before she came to SLOCA in 2008. She came to SLOCA because, simply put, she wanted to teach, and she loved the way Classical Education lends itself toward the connection of ideas in life, history, art, and literature. Her love of art history is evident in her teaching at SLOCA, as her students are often creating their own versions of classic paintings, displayed in the school office for the enjoyment of all! When she’s not in the classroom or laboring over the creation of our school’s yearbook, Caroline can be found playing and coaching soccer and basketball, hiking, reading, and doing her own painting. In the year ahead, Caroline wants to learn herself to be more teachable - a worthy call for us all!

Lisa WallaceLisa Wallace: Intermediate Teacher (Core & Science, Track A&B)

Lisa Wallace

Lisa Wallace: Intermediate Teacher (Core & Science, Track A&B)

Lisa Wallace was raised in Santa Ana, that California city famed for it’s gusty winds. The winds blew Lisa to Long Beach State to begin her college days as a Spanish major, to the University of La Verne for her B.A. in Liberal Arts and a Teaching Credential, and eventually to the North County of SLO. Here she settled into the work of raising and homeschooling her four boys, which she declares is where most of her education truly took place. “The day our first son was born” she says, is when her love of learning was ignited. “That overwhelming realization that there was so much to teach him - about life, history, where we fit into the big picture. I spent countless hours reading to and nurturing my babies. It built a great desire within me to learn even more.” After her boys were grown, she didn’t feel like she was done teaching, so Lisa came to SLOCA in February 2011 because “it fit so well with the way I homeschooled my own boys - the integrated subjects, history as literature, and of the reading so many great books.” She initially came just to teach Intermediate core, and has since bounced to High School Spanish and Intermediate science, then back to teaching Intermediate core and science. When she’s not at school, Lisa can be found playing with the grandboys (“did I mention I have 4 sons and 5 grandsons - no girls?!”), hanging with her hubby outside in nature, hiking, walking on the beach, biking, caring for animals. In other words - as far away from cooking and housework as possible! Of her next learning endeavor, Lisa says “I keep telling myself I will conquer speaking French, since 2 of our grandies use French as their primary language.”

Ashley WalterAshley Walter: Dean of Students & Safety

Ashley Walter

Ashley Walter: Dean of Students & Safety

Ashley Walter (resist the temptation to add an “s” to the end of her name!) could call just about anywhere on the West Coast “home”, having resided in cities like Los Angeles, CA, Tacoma, WA, and many places in between. Her love of sunshine ultimately convinced her to choose California as a permanent home; although, the Birkenstocks she occasionally wears suggest the Pacific Northwest will continue to hold a special place in her heart. After all, it was Washington’s Running Start program which gave her the opportunity to succeed in her education, and put her on the path toward helping other students find success in their education. That path would take her to Washington State for a B.S. in Human Development and Psychology; to City University in Tacoma for a M.Ed. and Guidance Counseling (while working part time in various positions as a ParaEducator, a Wellness Program/Center Director, and a HS Career Counselor); and to Loyola Marymount University for her School Administrative credential (while working full-time as a School Counselor and Assistant Designee in West LA). Ashley is surely no stranger to hard work! After all of that, it was time for a bit of a step back from the rigors of formal education. While in transition from LA to SLO County, she and her husband wandered abroad for 5 months through parts of Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, South Africa, Morocco, Spain and Italy. Once they made their way back to their new home, it was time to get back to work, and Ashley slipped into a role as the School Counselor and Assistant Designee in a migrant community north of Paso. However, her desire was really to be in a non-traditional school setting, hopefully with like-minded people, and working in an Administrative role. Apparently, the power of intention is strong because all of these hopes have been fulfilled at SLOCA! One year in, and although she is still learning about Classical Education, she believes it to be the most well-rounded and wholesome educational model that she’s encountered. She looks forward to learning alongside her kids one day. Apart from SLOCA, you’re most likely to find Ashley at some variety of group fitness class, working on a home-cooked meal or home-improvement project, in the great outdoors, or somewhere enjoying the occasional siesta. In short - there’s no telling where you might find Ashley! While she’ll be learning all kinds of new things in the next year (with her first bambino on the way), she also hopes to eventually start taking dance classes once again. Here’s to finding your new rhythm, Ashley!

Sarah WeinschenkSarah Weinschenk: Upper Middle School and High School Latin Teacher

Sarah Weinschenk

Sarah Weinschenk: Upper Middle School and High School Latin Teacher

Magistra Weinschenk grew up in the borough of Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, in an ideal environment for cultivating a deep and abiding love for learning. The McCurdy family dinner was instrumental in this cultivation, extending beyond an hour every night and filled with lively conversation, covering myriad subjects. Equally contributory to Sarah’s lifelong passion for learning were family trips to the Harrisburg Public Library, taken frequently and treated with some measure of ceremony. Mr. McCurdy required the girls to wear dresses or skirts for the occasion, sending the message that going to the library was an important event. If you could step into this beautiful old limestone building on the banks of the mighty Susquehanna River, surrounded by the warmth of woodwork and breathing in its wonderful, evocative smell, you would hardly wonder that she grew up thinking that everyone always had a great book in progress. When it came time for Sarah’s education to extend beyond Hummelstown, she embarked on a pilgrimage across the Susquehanna in (successful) pursuit of her B.A. in Latin from Dickinson College. But she didn’t stop there! Her path took her east to Fordham University in Bronx, NY, where she completed her formal education and received a M.A. in Latin. Sarah was contentedly teaching Latin classes from her home and raising her son, Ethan, when SLOCA found her in 2005. Founders Susie Theule and Lisa Lewis convinced her that it would not be all that different from teaching at home. Well . . . it has become much more than that! In her 10+ years teaching Latin to SLOCA’s Upper Middle School and High School students, she has come to love Classical Education for its interdisciplinary nature and unapologetic emphasis on great books and western culture. Likewise, she appreciates working among inspiring colleagues and being part of building an excellent school from the ground up. When there is no Latin lesson to be taught, or Virgil to be discussed, you might just spot Sarah pedaling her way along one of SLO’s many scenic roadways or soaking up a good book. In the year ahead, she would like to deepen her understanding of the crisis of the Republic in Roman history; knowledge which she will no doubt bring to her beloved students at SLOCA.

Jessica WilsonPreschool Teacher (Track B)

Jessica Wilson

Preschool Teacher (Track B)

Jessica may have grown up in North Hollywood at the time when the term “valley girl” was en vogue, but that popular 80’s song does nothing to describe this colorfully-clad and playfully-bespectacled Preschool teacher of ours! At about the age of 8, Jessica was reading (an activity you’ll find her indulging in, any time, any where, and from any thing - even cereal boxes!) the Little House on the Prairie series when she found herself absolutely puzzled by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s claims that tomatoes and cream could be considered dessert. “Preposterous!” she declared, and sought out her mother for clarification. Her mother explained that tomatoes, when homegrown, were sweet and delicious; prompting Jessica to wonder about how much in her current life was different from Laura Ingalls’ life. She distinctly remembers wondering if even the chicken she was accustomed to eating tasted like it did in that little house on the prairie. These questions fueled her desire to continue learning and read still more about all things new and different. With this fire in her belly, she went on to pursue a B.S. in Human Development, with specializations on Early Childhood Education, Emergent Curriculum, and Play. She received her degree at Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena CA and went on to work in the magical world of children’s literature: finding herself managing the children’s department for Borders Books and the whole of Storyopolis, a bookstore in Los Angeles that specializes in children's picture books and includes an art gallery representing book illustrators. It’s no wonder that the love of literature, so obvious at SLOCA, is what drew her to our community back in 2013! Jessica’s pursuit of growth is motivating her to “master the skill of mastery”, as she acknowledges her tendency to want to rush through learning new crafts or ideas. First up: learning to play her lonely little washboard while her husband plays happy tunes on his homemade cookie-tin ukuleles.

Jennifer WrightJen Wright: Lower Middle School Lead & Teacher (Core, Track A&B, and Science, Track A)

Jennifer Wright

Jen Wright: Lower Middle School Lead & Teacher (Core, Track A&B, and Science, Track A)

Jen Wright is one among our ranks who came from “back East”, having grown up in Montclair, New Jersey, and attended the University of Rhode Island. After receiving her B.A. in Marine Science, Jen spent some time teaching marine science on a research vessel to children in Rhode Island before heading “out West” and subsequently pursuing a teaching credential at Cal Poly SLO. It was in this time that Jen really discovered her love of learning. “I was mature enough to appreciate what I was learning, and wanted to make learning meaningful, engaging and fun for my students.” She took up a teaching post in Orcutt before taking time off to be with, and raise, her children. When she was looking to ease back into teaching part time in 2007, Jen discovered SLOCA and was thrilled with the opportunity to engage in meaningful education full of quality literature, digging deeper into subjects through quality socratic discussions, and helping to build a love of learning. Working at SLOCA has given her the freedom to teach in meaningful ways where students are so receptive and eager to learn. If she’s not at SLOCA, you’re more than likely to find Jen exercising, in one form or another, creating that much-needed mental break and stress reliever. “It's also lots of fun to do with my girlfriends, AKA: ‘the biker chicks!’” In the year ahead, Jen would love to learn how to paint with watercolors and acrylics. She has a dream to paint the beautiful landscapes in our area, including the silhouettes of the mountains as the sun is setting, the changing foliage of the vineyards in the fall, and of course the ocean - her favorite place to be on the weekends, where she gives herself permission to be totally lazy!