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!
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.
Anna is another among our ranks who began as a faithful volunteer and ultimately worked her way into a job at SLOCA. Since her oldest son began Jr. K, Anna has been helping out in the classroom, worked as a classroom liaison, and also been a substitute teacher in Little Wonder. Now that she has completed her Early Childhood Education units at Cuesta, we get to welcome Anna to her official role as an Aide in Little Wonders. Having always loved working with preschool age kids, and especially now that her younger son is beginning the program, she is thrilled to be working at SLOCA in this capacity.
Anna is glad to be able to have her children receive an education which she herself was not given. When she was in first grade, she experienced that love of learning; however, after a few years and different events, her public school failed and even from early on she knew she wanted more than what was offered to her in that environment. When she had my own children she searched for the best, and she found it here at SLOCA. She loves the way education is communicated, as well as the freedom it brings to her family. Anna and her husband get to be with our kids the best hours of their days and they know their children are getting the very best education at school as well as home.
When she’s not at SLOCA, homeschooling, or helping to run the family photography business, Anna can be found playing with her kids, taking family hikes, going on bike rides, at the beach, and camping. She also loves to crochet, work with wood and socialize with friends over a good glass of wine.
Anna is excited to learn how to play more at her age. No doubt her time working in Little Wonders will give her ample opportunities to do so!
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!”
Ashley Williams joined SLOCA in 2018 as a teacher in the toddler room. Originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, Ashley comes from a family of inspiring educators—her mother is a health teacher, and her grandmother was a nutrition professor—who instilled in her a passion for evolving models of education. She holds Associates Degrees from Weber State University and Cuesta College (social sciences, arts and humanities, sociology), and is interested in the culinary and visual arts. An aspiring knitter and painter, she has also worked as a pastry chef, and bakes in her spare time.
Board of Directors
Becky has been one of SLOCA’s biggest cheerleaders from the first time she heard about us! She encountered the school when tutoring a SLOCA student, which gave her the opportunity to totally involve herself with the rich, in-depth curriculum we offer. She was enamored with the way Classical Education gave students the chance to relive and evaluate our history, and for its emphasis on critical reading and thinking. This experience led Becky, a long-time educator, to hop on “board” with the Board of Directors about 8 years ago, and she’s been waving the banner ever since.
A quintessential life-long learner, Becky grew up in Salem, Oregon, and fell in love with school on the opening day of first grade. This passion, still so evident today, followed her through her education at the University of Puget Sound, where she received a BA in Education with minors in English and Spanish. She remains inspired, each and every day, to learn something new and, if possible, pass this along to others. Becky reckons she should have retired long ago, but has no desire to do so! She’s having too much fun tutoring her students of all ages in many different subjects
When she’s not working on board-related duties or tutoring, you’ll find Becky feeding and nurturing her farm animals (chickens, horse, and a pig) and otherwise tending her small farm, in addition to grabbing every spare moment to catch up on her never ending piles of “to read” books. And then there’s yoga to keep up her endurance for all of those activities!
In the next year, Becky would like to resume writing vignettes from her life, begin the Great Course on Genealogy in order to do the research on her family history, and also find a way to rid her property of those pesky ground squirrels that are consuming the garden plantings and distressing her on a daily basis! Unfortunately, yoga does nothing for rodent eradication.
Director of Marketing & Merchandising
Betsi Ashby, Director of Marketing & Merchandising, has a self-described “propensity for old things.” Yet despite these antiquarian inclinations, she is perpetually seeking out new ideas and experiences: her bucket list at the moment includes spear-fishing, bow-hunting, backpacking the John Muir trail, traveling to Japan to eat ramen from a vending machine, road-tripping through New Zealand, picking tea with monks in China, and owning a couple of pygmy goats. “Learning never leads to boredom,” she says, “it’s always there.” Betsi arrived at SLOCA in April of 2018 after earning her degree in philosophy, with an English minor, from Cal Poly, and gaining several years’ of formative marketing experience at Blue Mango Restaurant Management (Luna Red, Novo, Mint + Craft, Robin's). During this interval she also started up her own small-batch granola company, Grrrnola. While Betsi loves food and eats it every day, ultimately, she was drawn back to the books—drawn to SLOCA as “an environment that valued thoughtfulness, excellence, and community… a community that is doing something deep and meaningful. Plus,” she says, “I like the people who work at SLOCA.” [Awww, thanks, Betsi—we like you too!] A believer in education that sparks and preserves our innate curiosity about the world, Betsi can be found surfing, rock climbing, hiking, laughing, cooking something she’s never tried before, camping, reading at least three books at any given time, making origami cranes with whatever paper is around, daydreaming about where she wants to travel to next (and then researching), spending an evening in good conversation with good friends, and in general romping around. She is from, and retains a fierce loyalty to, San Diego, CA.
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!
Lead 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!
Carina Ramirez joined SLOCA in 2018 as a part-time lead teacher in the Tiny Wonders program. She recently completed her degree in Child Development, with a certificate in Cross Cultural Competency, from Fresno State, and was drawn to the originality of SLOCA’s classical vision. She enjoys spending time with her family, and one day aspires to complete her Masters degree in Social Work.
Kindergarten & Intermediate Art Teacher
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!
Blog Curator, Records & Admissions Assistant
Growing up in the Philippines, Cheryl always loved school, but didn’t really develop a passion for learning until her college years. She knew very well how to be a good student, follow instructions and do what she was told, but that was it. When she came to Cuesta College, she had to take responsibility for her own education and as she began to explore areas of study that piqued her interest, the desire and longing to know more emerged! She finished her time at Cuesta with an AA in Child Development and worked for a local, non-profit agency, coordinating children's services with a focus on child care for SLO County. The McCabes have been with SLOCA since their oldest child entered Kindergarten, and he is now going into Lower Middle School, so they feel quite woven into the SLOCA culture and lifestyle. Now that our youngest son is coming in, leaving Cheryl with a few hours of extra time, it only made sense to invest her time into the community they've come to know and love! “What I love most about classically educating my children,” Cheryl says, “is not only does it capture their imaginations but it forces them to think beyond themselves.” When she’s not at the school or directing the homeschool days of her three boys, you can find Cheryl hanging out with her family, reading, running, taking pictures, or eating! Her goal for the year is to learn how to swim by July 2017 - we’re rooting for you, Cheryl!
A native of Los Osos and Cambria, Chrissy Ybarra joined Team SLOCA as Safety Lead in August of 2018, having previously served as Vice Principal of a small private school. Chrissy was drawn to the SLOCA model because “it is adaptable to each child, adoptable in all areas of life, and sustainable for lifelong learning.” Becoming a mother, she says, opened up new avenues of rich learning for her. She enjoys hanging out on the Central Coast with her husband and kids.
Board of Directors
Chuck was born in California but grew up on a ranch in Hobble Creek Canyon in Northern Utah. His parents, six siblings and assorted relatives belonged to a conservative church which ran a private elementary school. Chuck was held back from attending this school until he was eight because he was too energetic to sit still. Luckily, his first educational experience was with an amazing SLOCA style teacher who helped him complete 1st and 2nd grade his first year. Chuck’s educational history since that time has been varied (Unschooling! Boarding school! Gap year!) but he eventually landed in SLO, where he attended Cuesta Community College, transferred to Cal Poly-SLO, and graduated with a B.S. in Business Administration focused on sales and marketing. Upon graduation, Chuck was given the title of President and sweat equity to turn a failing business around. Shortly after that, he met his future wife when she was on a girls' trip to SLO. Chuck and Geri have two amazing daughters who both attended SLOCA. One is a SLOCA high school graduate, and the other spent ten wonderful years here. Chuck's favorite outdoor activity is hiking Bishop's peak and stand up paddle boarding, where he doesn't have to ever sit in a chair. Without his positive experience with an extraordinary SLOCA style 1st-year teacher, he believes his life path would have been far less successful. This exposure to a love of learning is one of the many reasons he has been committed to the SLOCA board for ten years. He firmly believes that SLOCA's leadership creates a unique educational experience, infuses a deep love of learning, and carefully chooses exceptional teachers that create an enriching, personal, and moral impact in students' lives while building knowledge and character which positively transforms the community.
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!)
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!”
Board of Directors
Dan Dow was born in Massachusetts, but was raised in Maine; which, if you’re acquainted with Maine-Massachusetts relations, you’ll know that’s a bit like Romeo becoming a Capulet! Fortunately, the Shakespearean hero’s fate was not to be Dan’s, and he enjoyed his childhood as a “Maine-iac”, attending Zig Ziglar seminars with his parents even in elementary school. He believes these experiences impressed upon him the idea that becoming the best you can be is a continuing process of learning (often through reading), being willing to change and adapt, and seeking out mentoring relationships with others that know more than you and are willing to share their experiences with you. With this foundation firmly in place, Dan was ready to take on the world (and possibly just ready to for a break from the harsh New England winters) when he came to California to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science (Pre-Law) at Cal State University, Hayward; then it was on to Santa Clara Law for his Juris Doctor. Since 1989 he has served in the Army (both active and reserve), worked as a criminal prosecutor for the past 12 years, and currently serves as the District Attorney for SLO County in addition to serving the California National Guard as a Judge Advocate. The Dow family found their way to SLOCA in 2012 and Dan is a firm believer in the classical model for the simple fact that his kids love it! Classical Education at SLOCA for him is the fusion of excellence in academics with an environment that creates a genuine love of learning. Joining the SLOCA Board of Directors is a perfect fit for him because he sees it as his opportunity to further contribute to his children’s learning experience and to do whatever he can to support the school due to it being an amazing and valuable educational resource for the community at large. It’s clear that Dan has much in his life to keep him busy - between his service to our school’s community and that of SLO County - but that doesn’t keep him from hanging out with his wife Wendy and their children, going on runs or family walks, or savoring a good cup of coffee with a friend. He hopes in the year ahead to also venture down the path of woodworking, starting with a few simple projects and seeing where it leads him.
If there was one word to describe Debbie Lee, “vivacious” would just about fit the bill. Anyone who has met her would assume that Debbie has always been filled with the same eagerness to learn about myriad subjects and desire to acquire new skills as is so apparent in her today; however, it wasn’t until college that she believes her true lifelong passion for learning was sparked. She had left her hometown of Visalia, CA, to pursue a BA in Psychology at Pepperdine University, when the opportunity arose for her to do a study-abroad program for 2 summers in Florence, Italy. And it was there that she realized the true magic of learning. History, language, art and culture came to life for her as she visited museums, cathedrals, and monuments. She toured the major cities, such as Rome, Venice, Paris, Vienna, Budapest, and Prague, and it was through these experiences that she came to appreciate and embrace the infinite opportunities for learning. And she does, indeed, embrace those infinite opportunities to learn! Debbie has owned businesses in medical billing and graphic design; at SLOCA she has worked as a “Nice Office Lady”, currently assists the High School Director and creates manages the Weekly Update. Personally, she loves to do all sorts of outdoor and fitness activities, taking care of her many animals, baking, reading, singing, playing the piano, and is even taking drum lessons! Her favorite opportunity for learning, however, comes through having her son at SLOCA. She loves that Classical Education engages young minds in great literature, history, science, music, Latin, language, art, and math and how it creates connections between all the subjects. She is able to see first-hand how those connections come to life and help her son learn about his world. As if she doesn’t already have a lot going on, she still says she would love to learn something crafty - like knitting, sewing, or painting. “I would also love to re-learn Italian,” she sighs, “I miss being able to speak Italian!”
Librarian and Curriculum Consultant
Way back in 2006, before SLOCA even had a campus to meet on, Edie Overduin signed up to develop curricula, start up the library, and in general wear whatever hats the budding classical institution needed her to wear. An unrepentant philologist (word lover), Edie has from childhood harbored great affection for browsing dictionaries and encyclopedias. Since earning her B.S. in Nutritional Science from Cal Poly, she has found many creative ways to further her own education and that of her children. In particular, she loves SLOCA’s emphasis on learning together, especially Latin, logic, good literature, in-depth history, and critical thinking. And if you buy her a volume of the Oxford English Dictionary (she’s collecting all 20), she will love you forever. Throughout her day Edie enjoys reading (of course!), drinking coffee at home, and transporting all five of her children hither and yon.
LMS, UMS & HS 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.
LW Aide (Track B)
Heidi Mitchell always enjoyed school growing up, but it wasn’t until children of her own came along that she realized the profound significance of early childhood education. Now, as a Teaching Assistant for Little Wonders and Tiny Wonders, she gets to learn all over again with her students and her kids. In addition to her work in the classroom and homeschooling her two kids, she runs an electrical business with her husband. In her spare time she enjoys sewing, doing construction on her home, and taking on small building projects, especially making old furniture out of reclaimed wood. Heidi grew up in Shell Beach, living above Old Vienna Restaurant (sounds tasty!), and studied at FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising) in Los Angeles. She is currently working on an assistant teaching certificate and, for fun, her Spanish.
Board of Directors
Hilary was raised on the island of O’ahu, the third-largest of the Hawaiian Islands, and known for being the home of Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, and Waikiki. This fact might surprise you, because your first impression of her was likely that this business savvy ranch boss and winery owner had grown up in Texas (or some other area known for high populations of cowboys and cowgirls)! In truth, she did spend a fair amount of time in such regions, because she came to the mainland to study business at Cal State University, Fresno; afterward, she went to the Texas Woman’s University, where she received a Master’s in Library Science; finally, she did some post graduate work in Crop Science at Cal Poly, here in SLO. She runs a farm with her husband and two girls, both of whom now attend SLOCA. Her oldest daughter began coming in 2014 when she reached 7th grade, and since then the family has been thrilled with the passionate teachers, the dynamic curriculum, and the amazing bookstore at the school. They love Classical Education for the integrated subject matter and the fact that students gain a love of learning above all. When Hilary is not at the school (or poring over the books in the store, to be exact!) you’ll find her working away at her farm chores, cooking, baking, or doing Crossfit. In the year ahead, Hilary would like to stretch her mind and body by learning the new skill of kipping pull-ups, and a new subject of study in expandoing her knowledge of California water policy.
UMS Math & Science
Isaac Yorke loves to learn by doing. A native of Temecula, CA, Isaac arrived at SLOCA in December of 2017 as our Upper Middle School math and science teacher, upon earning his B.S. in Biology from Cal Poly, with a concentration in Field and Wildlife Biology. He is passionate about our middle school program’s classical structure, which helps students deepen their understanding of these subjects. Having previously taught environmental and outdoor education, Isaac loves the outdoors and can often be found trail running with his two dogs, or rock climbing in SLO. Even though SLOCA is #NOTamusicschool, he has plans to teach himself the violin.
Social Media Manager
Jeannett Gibson easily gets the most “likes” of anyone at SLOCA. As our Social Media Manager, Jeannett keeps us connected to our extended families and to the broader classical education community all over the world. Classical education ought to be both deep and wide, and Jeannett helps spread the word (and images, and video, of course). A native of Southern California, she earned her BS in City and Regional Planning from Cal Poly, and still harbors a not-so-secret aspiration to be a professional college student for life (“if not for the pesky business of tuition and time”). Still, when she’s not maintaining SLOCA’s online presence, you can find her turning random household items into flower pots, reading a book, or contemplating writing one herself.
UMS Logic Teacher
We are thrilled to welcome Jenna Burns back into a teaching role at SLOCA! Prior to a three-year hiatus from teaching (in which she brought two delightful children into the world) Jenna had taught HS history/lit, HS speech/debate, UMS history/lit, and been the UMS Lead Teacher. Even while she was ‘gone’, she continued to work at SLOCA through the writing of thoughtful blog posts and successfully coordinating our most recent WASC accreditation process. We couldn’t be happier that Jenna is returning to teaching at SLOCA in the UMS Logic & Rhetoric classroom!
Jenna originally came to SLOCA back in 2010 from a teaching post in the public school. She was enamored by the way Classical Edication meets the students where they are developmentally and then pushes them beyond what they thought they could ever accomplish; and the fact that history and literature were being taught together!
Jenna’s own love of learning was sparked by her first grade teacher, Mrs. Brown, whom she describes as amazing; granted, the only real memory she has of Mrs. Brown was when she jumped up on a desk to show off her new cartoon character socks! But, Jenna still believes she has this teacher to thank for giving her the love of learning at an early age.
When Jenna’s not at SLOCA, you’re sure to find her busily and graciously caring for her little ones; Julianna is now three and Nathaniel is one. In the moments when she’s not trying to keep up with them, she’s diligently working on mastering a new (to her) art of embroidery.
Director of the Wisdom Wonder Project
Jennifer Martinez directs The Wisdom Wonder Project, set to launch in January of 2019. She is here, in short, “because SLOCA is magical. Seriously,” she says. “What SLOCA does is beyond anything I'd seen in education up to this point.” Impressed by the credit that classical education gives children—positing that they can read and profit from classic texts that many adults haven’t tackled—Jennifer sees in SLOCA echoes of her own vast passion for discovering new things. It’s no surprise, then, that Jennifer’s education path has taken several creative, entrepreneurial turns in recent years. Growing up in California and Taiwan, she earned degrees from Georgetown School of Foreign Service (double majoring in international development and comparative literature: French, English, Chinese), and the Harvard Graduate School of Education (Teaching and Curriculum Program, with a focus in social justice through urban education). Most recently, she started a coffee shop in SLO, Bello Mundo Café, and worked on a novel during her husband’s sabbatical year in Germany. As you might guess, Jennifer enjoys traveling, writing, spending time with her husband and two daughters, reading, acting, and baking/eating. Her future educational aspirations also include raising trilingual daughters, fluent in Mandarin and Spanish.
Primary Lead Teacher, Core & Science (Track B); FF Lead
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!
LMS Lead Teacher (Track A&B)
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!
Assistant to the HS Director
Jenny, SLOCA’s Blogmaster extraordinaire, grew up mostly in Lancaster, CA, and Bakersfield, CA, with a couple of years in Texas. As a child, Jenny loved school and books; books are what sparked her desire for learning. That went away somewhat in her older school years, and honestly she’d say it was when her family started SLOCA that the lifelong passion for learning was truly nurtured. “Discovering a whole world of learning alongside my kids made me realize how fascinating life is and how much there is to learn!” Jenny had come to SLO to attend Cal Poly, where she received her B.A. in Graphic Communication; she and her husband stuck around the area and began raising their family while Jenny was working as a graphic and web designer. In 2010, after a few years of having her children at SLOCA, Jenny began toeing into life on Team SLOCA. She loved the idea of being on campus 1 day a week, close to everything that was happening at the school. “It was a chance to be even more involved in my kids' education, and also to get to know the wonderful community of staff and parents more.” She started out working as one of our “Nice Office Ladies” and has been curating our blog, DownHome, for the last 4 years. Anyone who has read the blog knows that Jenny is 100% in love with Classical Education. She particularly appreciates it for the emphasis on quality literature and all that is learned about history, human nature, and life through the process of reading. When she’s not working away at the blog or walking through a homeschool day with her two youngest, you will probably find Jenny in the kitchen, or reading a book, or working away in the kitchen while listening to an audio book! Jenny’s lifelong love of learning is spurring her on to master the art of gardening and canning, as well as to learn more about 20th century history; no doubt there are many audio resources to help her learn more about 20th century history while she works away at gardening and canning!
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.
Board of Directors
It’s easy to think of good communicators as people who are really good at speaking, or presenting, or somehow getting a point across; but, if you’ve spent any amount of time with Jill, you’ve been made aware of the fact that great communicators are the ones who know how to truly listen as well as speak! A small town girl from Idaho, Jill hopped across the state line into Washington to pursue a BA in Communications from the Edward R. Murrow School of Communications at Washington State University. This is where she truly fell in love with learning, as she found herself surrounded by a dynamic community of students and professors who were engaged by story. The stories of people, places and ideas are absolutely captivating and simply interviewing people engendered in her a fascination for all manner of subjects. She’s still blown away by the fact that if you ask a person a question they will answer you back! Jill brings her fervor for collaborating with people who have a shared vision and passion to her role as a SLOCA parent, director on the school board and fundraising committee member. One of her favorite things about Classical Education at SLOCA is the fact that we learn history through a narrative. “Read that: no history textbooks.” When she’s not guiding her children through their studies, collaborating with team members toward a common goal or making connections in the community, you’ll find Jill outside enjoying time with family or friends. In the next year she would like to know how to get more hours out of the day. If you find the secret, Jill, pass it on!
Joshua Ronda, SLOCA’s self-described “video dude,” grew up in Arroyo Grande, California, and is a third-year Art and Design major at Cal Poly with a concentration in Graphic Design. Few, however, can match his SLOCA credentials, which span over a decade: Josh matriculated at the lower school during its earliest days and graduated from SLOCA High School in 2016, earning the respect of the SLOCA faculty, staff, and students; writing impressive papers on Moby-Dick; and making us all laugh a lot along the way. A full-time college student for now, Josh can also be found around town hiking, exploring, or shopping at the dollar store. And as an aspiring luthier, he would like to one day build his own guitar (a project SLOCA’s woodshop elective has occasionally undertaken!).
Julie Campbell is all-in when it comes to classical education. A mother of two SLOCA students, she has also served as NOL, Upper Middle School Classroom Liaison, and, as of 2018, a Tiny Wonders Teacher. Her love of books and babies makes this new role a perfect fit. Julie has seen firsthand, at home and in the classroom, how the classical model educates the whole person, and teaches students how to think, not just what to think. A native of Covina, CA, she earned an A.S. in Child Development and an A.A. in Liberal Studies from Moorpark College. When she is not teaching Jazzercise or cooking, she is interested in learning about block play.
Julie Larsen, SLOCA’s newest Junior Kindergarten teacher, was drawn to SLOCA as a place where students and teachers can “live what they love.” A native of Nipomo, CA, Julie earned her BA in Elementary Education at Northwest Nazarene University, a liberal arts college in Nampa, Idaho. She arrived at SLOCA in August 2018 with twenty-one years’ teaching experience at the 5th-, 2nd-, and 1st- grade levels. For Julie it was her preschool days (at Cal Poly!) that sparked her lifelong love of learning, instilling in her a sense of freedom, fun, and joy as essential to any learning environment. (In particular, she recalls having a sink at the top of a hill that her preschool teacher frequently filled with soap suds, allowing Julie to cover herself in bubbles and race down the hill...) She describes SLOCA as her “dream job”—a community that is always learning, inspiring one another, working together to create a beautiful learning environment, and challenging one another to go deeper, bigger, and better. She also loves projects of all sorts, and can often be found at work in her garden. In the spirit of semper discentes, Julie aspires to continue in her Finish language study, which she began early on with her grandfather in the afternoons, after school, and furthered for a time as an exchange student in Finland.
Now entering her eighth year as a SLOCA parent, Julie Thompson has come to appreciate The Three Ls of SLOCA: Logic, Literature, and Latin. In 2018, in addition to the duties of homeschool parent and stay-at-home mom, Julie was handpicked to assist Merideth Eades and the Little Wonders program. A native of Fresno, CA, Julie earned her BA in English at Cal Poly, and MA in English at CSU Fresno. When she is not doing “mom stuff” like grocery shopping, cooking, paying bills, cleaning the house, and walking the dog, she has developed an interest in personal finance and investing.
K-Intermediate Music Teacher (Track A&B)
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!
Ask anyone who knows Kara to tell you about her and you’ll pick up on a major theme in no time - she loves her family! So it’s no surprise that she describes herself as “first a mom, wife, sister, and daughter” and that she’ll declare to you that family is the most important thing to her. In fact, family is what brought her to SLOCA. Kara had been working as a regional manager for a foreign exchange student company when her brother and sister-in-law, who are SLOCA parents, told her about an opening here for the “Nice Office Lady”. Given that she had been watching her nieces and nephew excel here, becoming increasingly more fascinated with SLOCA’s model of education, she knew she wanted to be a part of what was happening here. Also, she has a wonderful sense of humor and didn’t want to give up the opportunity to be called our “NOL”.
Kara is most looking forward to diving in and learning everything she can about Classical Education. Her own journey with learning could be described as one of a ‘late bloomer’, always having the desire to learn, but not necessarily having it nurtured as it could have been early on in life. But now, the older she gets, the more she loves to learn about new things; that’s why she feels so strongly that finding a way to ignite that spark into a flame is so important. Kara is excited to jump into this new job, to read more of the classics, and to contribute to our community. When she’s not hard at work doing all of that, you’ll find her cooking and enjoying family meals, or indulging her creative side with painting and yard work.
LW Aide (Track B)
While Karen may have only recently (spring of 2017) begun “officially” working at SLOCA, she has been volunteering consistently as a parent since 2010. Being able to work at a school that she loves, in a capacity that also allows her to continue educating her daughter at SLOCA meant that taking on this role was an absolute slam-dunk for she and her family.
Karen loves the fact that, through the education at SLOCA, her whole family is learning to think and ask, "Why?" That nurturing of a lifelong love of learning has become very important to her because roughly eight years ago, she was able to see what that kind of passion looks like later in a person’s life. She had become acquainted with two women through church functions, both in their late 70's, who still had that fire in them and had not ceased to learn. Even though their bodies were frail, their minds were still so vibrant, and had preserved a love of learning that translated into a love for people. Karen found herself inspired by these women and was renewed in her own desire to continue learning.
When Karen is not at the school or doing school at home, you’ll find her sitting in the bleachers at her children's athletic events, baking; and depending on the time of year, tending her vegetable garden. In the year ahead she would like to master the art of baking gluten free bagels, in addition to figuring out how to eradicate the gophers and moles in her yard!
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!”
Board of Directors & Finance Team Member
Ken is one of those incredible human beings who, although he has a very full day job (pursuing the practice of law and advising community banks), still has the ability to dedicate countless hours of service to SLOCA by volunteering as the Board President, a member of the Finance Team, a level-headed interpreter of legal gobbledygook for the law illiterate, and even as a coach for flag football (which he declares to be his favorite role of all). His desire from the beginning of the Moore’s time at SLOCA has been to contribute alongside his wife in their kids’ education, and we are so grateful! Ken grew up in Santa Barbara and, although he’s always been a curious guy, he gives the credit for his love of learning to his mother, who forced him every summer - from the time he could read - to participate in the local library's book challenge on number of books read. He doesn’t recall ever having won the competition, but this activity made him a reader of books for life. This early exposure to rigorous study would certainly serve him well as he went on to Cal Poly for a BS in Business Admin with a concentration in finance, and then still further in his pursuit of a JD at Washington and Lee University. In 2010, Ken and his wife brought their children to SLOCA, knowing that the education here would provide them the context for, and deeper perspective on, this crazy thing called life! When he’s not expertly juggling all of the aforementioned roles at work and at the school, Ken will be found spending time with his family travelling, hiking / backpacking, at the beach, goofing off at the skate park, or just hanging out. In the next year, he hopes to learn how to play something slightly more complicated than Hot Cross Buns on the piano.
Kristina cannot remember a time when she did not enjoy learning, and she seemed to have been born with the understanding that sometimes all it took was a question, and the learning would begin. Growing up in Napa, CA, Kristina was the master of her own education, asking (in her words) an inordinate number of questions, most likely to her brothers’ annoyance. When she finally got to school, her questions found an audience and her teachers encouraged them still more.
With her curiosity nurtured, Kristina came to Cal Poly to study Psychology and then pursued her education further at Sonoma State University, where she received her teaching credential. Prior to coming to SLOCA in May 2017, Kristina had taught Kindergarten, First Grade, and - most recently - Fourth Grade in a local school district. During that time, Kristina again took her growth into her own hands and began looking into how else school could be done, seeking inspiration. She came across SLOCA's website and connected with the mission and vision of the school. After taking a tour and seeing the school in action, she knew SLOCA was a community that she wanted to be a part of. Kristina loves that Classical Education teaches students how to learn, not simply what to learn.
When she’s not at SLOCA, you’re most likely to find her hiking, walking around the park with her husband and their dog, Junebug, or curled up in her hammock chair on the porch, reading a good book.
Kristina and her husband just got a plot at the community garden near their house and she’s excited to get some things in the ground and hopefully move beyond beginner's luck! Happy growing, Kristina!
Lareina Gamboa began caring for our Tiny Wonders in the fall of 2018. A native of Los Angeles, CA, Lareina studied journalism at Cuesta College and has worked for the City of San Luis Obispo’s after school programs. As an early childhood educator, she believes that sparking wonder and lifelong curiosity in children is essential to forming wise adults who remain engaged with the ever-changing world around us. Lareina loves biking and hiking around town, and being a homebody with her significant other.
A native of rural Sacramento, Lindsay Gaines joined the SLOCA faculty in 2018 as an aide in the infant/toddler room. Lindsay studied at UC Davis (BS in psychology, with a minor in human development) and Samuel Merritt (BA, nursing), before working as an operating room nurse in the Twin Cities. Although Lindsay loved school from an early age, the ever-changing nature of the nursing field taught her the importance of becoming a lifelong learner. Holistic healing practices, in particular, have attracted her interest at the moment. Drawn to SLOCA's nurturing environment, she believes that classical education creates well-rounded children who are curious, critical thinkers. Her hobbies include doing yoga and playing with her three fur babies.
Retail Management Consultant
Lindsey was raised in Bass Lake, CA, and attended CSU Fullerton where she received her BA in Liberal Studies. Such a multifaceted major surely fit Lindsey like a glove, because she is nothing if not multi-talented! For about 10 years now, Lindsey has been running a lifestyle blog where she dabbles in DIY projects, design, fashion, parties, and basic mom things. Back in 2008, at the exactly the same time that her oldest started Kindergarten at SLOCA, Lindsey opened her own handmade business. She began solo - designing, sewing, photographing, listing, advertising, shipping - all her own designs, but quickly learned how to hire help (having 3 kids ages 5 and under will teach you how to do that!). As busy as she was with her work, Lindsey still cherishes the opportunity to engage at the school where her three kids are now thriving. She started out small, as the “pizza lady” for Track A, which gave her the pleasure of seeing her own kids at lunch and getting to know their classmates while serving pizza. Soon after, Lindsey began branching out into more creative and aesthetic endeavors at SLOCA. First, with the help of her parents, she installed the tension wires in the main office, began putting up fun decor in there. That eventually morphed into taking over the general appearance of that office space, and she often works with Susie on other design projects (the recent office redesign, Lead Team offices, Team SLOCA room, library and school store, as well as the outdoor areas of the Den). Lindsey really enjoys designing projects that are on a budget, as it forces her to be creative with the resources available. Not only that, but she loves making her kids' school a more beautiful place, reflecting the beauty of the education we are providing for our kids! Additionally, when we opened the Fred & Betty's thrift store in 2013, Lindsey took on the role of Project Manager during the store remodel, and that lead to her current position of Supervisor, acting as a liaison between the store and the school. She is also the Design Lead at the store for the window and table displays (although our staff is quite skilled at the table displays now as well!). Of this role at Fred & Betty’s, Lindsey says she initially took it on because “ I couldn't walk away from it! I have a passion for design, small business, thrifting and vintage items, as well as supporting our school. Anytime I thought of handing off my responsibilities, There was nothing I wanted someone else to do!” It’s a safe bet to say that if Lindsey isn’t at SLOCA, she’ll be found at home with her kids or at Fred & Betty’s!
Lisa Ann Dillon
Lisa Ann Dillon
Intermediate Lead Teacher (Track A)
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.”
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.”
Lori Curry first joined the SLOCA community seven years ago as a parent, and was finally recruited (lured?) to our staff as an Infant/Toddler Teacher in January of 2018. Raised in Stockton, CA, as the daughter of an English professor, she has loved books and reading from an early age, and went on to serve as a Head Teacher in the Infant/Toddler Rotation at ASI Children's Center at Cal Poly. Lori especially values the strong community that SLOCA fosters, as well as the Socratic learning model that can be practiced with all ages of learners. From a pedagogical perspective, she is interested in exploring the connections between classical education and co-constructivism. These days she spends much of her free time at home with her family and hopes to improve her sewing skills to the point where she can make a garment that can actually be worn in public. Her other domestic quest at the moment is to make a really good pie crust.
LW Teacher, Preschool (Track A)
Margot Kandarian has taught preschool on Track A since the fall of 2018. A native of Los Osos, she studied early childhood education at Cuesta College before studying math at The University of San Francisco, and previously taught preschool in the Bay Area. Margot enjoys hiking, camping, gardening, doing crafts, reading, and playing with her cat, Lilly Bell. She also aspires to one day perfect her French to the point of true fluency.
A self-described avid surfer, rock climber, and Pinochle player, Mark developed a love for athletics at a young age, having participated in numerous sports, including soccer, basketball, wrestling, golf, and cross country. He grew up in Payette, Idaho, a small town which looks across the Snake River into Oregon. He struck out for the big city of Boise to attend the University of Idaho where he majored in Recreation, with a Minor in Outdoor Leadership.
After college, Mark went on to work for the YMCA - in Colorado and in SLO - leading before and after school programs, coaching multiple sports, and directing summer camps.
Mark brought his passion and knowledge of recreation to SLOCA in February 2017 when he came on board as our Athletic Director. He was excited about the opportunity to grow a program which would build knowledge and teamwork, instill perseverance, and teach sportsmanship along with the skills to compete well. Above all, he is passionate about youth and helping them to achieve their full potential both in athletics and academics, and because SLOCA is a place which values a love of learning and personal growth, he knew this was the place for him.
Mark hopes to foster his own love of learning by growing in his skill as a harmonica player, as well as in the art of woodworking. Who knows? Maybe he’ll learn how to make a wooden harmonica!
Kindergarten Teacher; Friday Foundations
Mary is a local gal, having spent most of her life in San Luis Obispo, and just taking a little time away when she attended Sonoma State. After receiving her BA in Communications, Mary came back home to SLO to obtain her Teaching Credential at Cal Poly. Her lifelong love of learning was sparked around that time, when she first became a parent. She realized that learning could actually be fun, empowering, and life changing; it wasn’t just about getting a certain set of grades. Mary was staying at home with her two young boys when she found SLOCA in 2009 and was immediately drawn to the love of learning that was so evident and the family focus of the school community. Mary worked for a while as a Kindergarten teacher; then moved into a support role working with educational and curriculum planning when the arrival of her third child required her to take on a more flexible schedule. Now, with her fourth on the way, she certainly has her hands full! When she’s not at SLOCA, you’ll find Mary and her growing tribe hanging out and going on adventures along the central coast. Her goal in the year ahead is to learn how to make a super scrumptious salsa. If you’ve got a secret recipe, beware! Mary is on a mission to wrest it from your grip!
Primary Teacher, Core & Art (Track A&B)
Ms. Lamb 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.
Little/Tiny Wonders Director
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!
Director of Community Life
A SLOCA parent since 2013, Michael Godsey took the leap and joined our staff in the summer of 2018 as Director of Community Life. Prior to that, Mike taught English at SLO High and Morro Bay High while fulfilling various administrative roles throughout the district. The SLOCA community’s thoughtfulness impressed Mike from the start. Leading parent book groups and pulling weeds on weekend workdays, Mike could sense that he would grow and thrive here. His cast of mind forms a natural fit with the interdisciplinary structure of classical education, particularly the integration of history throughout the curriculum (“It's how I've always learned best”); the trivium's articulation of developmental stages, the truth of which he has seen borne out in his experience as a teacher, parent, and coach; and the classical foundation in great books, which are being slowly de-prioritized at the public schools. Reading was Mike’s first love as a boy growing up in San Diego and Pleasanton, where he also loved exploring the creek and fields behind his house. He went on to earn a BA in English at Cal Poly and an MA from the University of Colorado and has lived in SLO, with the exception of those Colorado years, since 1993. Always interested in broadening the cultural conversation, Mike has recently penned articles on education for The Atlantic, Mindshift, the LA Times, and Literacy Today, and publishes lesson plans with his wife, Melissa. His other current intellectual interests include the human microbiome and the gut-brain connection, so don't hesitate to buy him a kombucha from the school store if you see him around campus.
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?!”)
Board of Directors
Nick Thille joined the SLOCA board of directors in the fall of 2014 because he believes that SLOCA is doing great things for our kids and our community. Raised in Santa Paula, CA, Nick earned a BA in Economics at Stanford, though he credits his second-grade teacher, Mrs. Lefler, with sparking his initial sense of curiosity and inquiry. These days he spends his time growing avocados, raising kids, volunteering with the Community Foundation and the Sheriff's Aero Squadron. Whether Nick is learning to drive a tractor or fix a computer, he has no time for boredom.
LW Aide (Track A)
Nitaña Sanchez grew up in Santa Barbara and Goleta, CA, and earned a B.A. in World Arts & Cultures, Dance from UCLA. When she’s not homeschooling her son, acting in community theater, or teaching dance, she has served at SLOCA as a Junior Kindergarten Teacher’s Aide since 2018. Her new business, Tour De Dance, specializing in arts and culture trips, is a natural extension of these educational passions. She credits her mother and her own early explorations of the natural world with sparking her creativity and love of learning. Nurturing children's innate curiosity and teaching them that character matters are still of the utmost importance to Nitaña and are what drew her to SLOCA. Connecting with the autism community is also a priority for Nitaña these days, and as she studies for her child development courses, she would like to create an inclusive play group to help children gain social skills, including those with special needs.
HS Science & Math Teacher; Science Curriculum Coordinator
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.
HS Latin Teacher & Librarian
Pamela R. Bleisch joined SLOCA in the summer of 2018 as our new Librarian and freshman Latin teacher. A native of University City, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, Dr. Bleish studied classics at Brown University (BA), the University of Chicago (MA), and UCLA (PhD), and trained in Library Science at Simmons College in Boston. Before arriving at SLOCA, she helped coordinate the Digital Commons at the Cal Poly Library and assisted in the Registrar’s office, coordinating the university curriculum. At SLOCA she senses that she is in her element—“no longer a fish out of water!”—helping to craft an interdisciplinary approach to history and literature that allows students and their families to become active participants in the Great Conversation. Perhaps owing to her mother’s reading aloud and reciting poetry to her as a child, or perhaps to her older siblings’ dinner table conversations about Beowulf, Lysistrata, and My Antonia, Dr. Bleisch is drawn to SLOCA’s deeply interwoven community of families and inspirational teachers, as well as its emphasis on virtue and excellence. She also credits the rich and rigorous curriculum at her public high school (which offered French, German, Latin, Russian, Spanish, and NEA-funded Art History program), as well as her mother’s love of classical music, jazz, and The Ramones. These days you can find her in Los Osos, cashiering at the Abundance Shop thrift store on 9th Street, leading the children's education programs at St Benedict's Episcopal Church, or walking on the bluffs at Montana de Oro. She lives in San Luis Obispo with her husband, Tim, and son, Akshay, a senior year at SLO High. Her daughter, Reva, works in town and attends classes at Cuesta College. Dr. Bleisch also aspires one day to study Spanish—“such a beautiful language, such a rich culture”—preferably in a classroom setting, because “the human brain is hard-wired to learn language by interacting with other humans. That's one of the fun challenges to teaching Latin!”
LMS Latin; 4-day Lab
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.
HS Literature Teacher
Paul McCullough has been teaching literature at SLOCA High School since the fall of 2015, after nearly a decade of semi-nomadic graduate study and teaching gigs in the Midwest and on the East Coast. He studied literature at the University of Iowa (MA, English) and theology at Yale University (MAR, Religion), and then taught at Longwood University in Prince Edward County, VA, and at the Westover School in Middlebury, CT. A Cal Poly alum, he was wooed back west by SLOCA’s small class sizes, book-loving students, classical foundations, and the sense that we—the entire community—are in it together. As Head of Athens House, Senior Project Director, and Occasional SLOCA Blogger, Paul has found a myriad of ways to make SLOCA a more amusing, grammatical place. On weekends he can be found backpacking in Big Sur, playing center field for the SLO Legends baseball team, and cultivating various forms of constructive idleness.
Director of HR and Care
Rachelle Penberthy, Director of Human Resources and Care, joined the SLOCA staff in August of 2018. Hailing from Palos Verdes, CA, Rachelle earned a B.S. in Agribusiness at Cal Poly and worked in town as an Employee Benefits Manager at Morris & Garritano Insurance. The experience of becoming a new mother, however, opened new horizons for Rachelle, and she decided to immerse herself in SLOCA's educational community. First and foremost she believes in SLOCA’s mission of nurturing a lifelong passion for learning, and also loves the systematic, analytical thinking that classical education fosters, which reminds her of her own intellectual awakening in high school. Her favorite English teacher would encourage the class “to arrive at our own conclusions and we would discuss how we came to them without judgment, which expanded our way of thinking and was a refreshing change from my conventional learning experience.” While she hopes to continue her own education by earning her PHR certification, Rachelle also enjoys spending time her family and spending time at the beach—preferably at the same time.
Board of Directors
Robert’s love of learning was nurtured early on simply through the act of reading. He took his passion for reading and learning with him to Biola University (Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies) Master’s Seminary (Master of Divinity) and then to Trinity Western University (Doctor of Ministry). I will not say ‘finally’, because Robert carries that passion with him wherever he goes, and likely will for the rest of his life. He and his wife were thrilled to bring their children to SLOCA back in 2010 because they knew they would truly be educated for life. “SLOCA has shaped the entirety of our children's lives and ours as their parents” he says. “Having two involved in the High School, we have seen the benefits of the final rhetoric stage of classical education.” When Robert isn’t lending his wisdom and guidance to SLOCA through service on the Board, or leading his congregation in Santa Margarita (a town he dearly loves!) you are most likely to find him reading and talking to people he enjoys. In this next year, Robert’s desire is to learn how to be a better public speaker and leader.
Finance Team Member
Ron has been with SLOCA from the dawn of (the school’s) time when he volunteered his time, passion, and business expertise as a founding board member. He believed in the school from the start, for the hybrid model, and for the way Classical Education recognizes that our worldviews come FROM somewhere; our ways of thinking and our approaches to leadership are shaped by thinkers and leaders who came before us. Ron himself has experienced the way the study of Classical writings has informed his understanding of how the great thinkers of the past have reasoned and why. He is proud to not only have been a founding board member and a finance team member, but to also be a SLOCA grandparent. While his public school education in Ventura may not have been what ignited his passion for learning, it at least did not stifle Ron’s innate curiosity. His kids will vouch for the fact that, if they asked a question at the dinner table which he did not have the answer for, he would surely get to researching in order to find them the answer. In our current information-overload culture, this may not seem like a huge feat or noteworthy, but this was at a time before the internet existed! “Back in the day” he says, “we had ‘encyclopedias’ in our house.” Aside from being a wise grandfather and a trusted member of our finance team, Ron also works as the COO of a medical group, running the business so doctors can practice the medicine. In his leisure time, Ron is apt to be found riding his road bike around beautiful areas in SLO County, singing, studying & teaching theology at church, hanging out with friends and family. In the year ahead, Ron would like to rediscover my high school Spanish so he can talk with more people in the community.
Intermediate Teacher, Core & Science (Track A&B)
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.
Design & Web Intern
Sage Theule began working as SLOCA’s Design and Web Intern in 2015. However, her affiliation with (and affection for) the school extends much further back to the days of SLOCA’s inception, when she was a third-grader attending classes in living rooms and garages. Classical education, she says, allowed her to immerse herself in original authors and scholars (rather than textbooks), and to learn from peers and mentors (teachers) living alongside each other, by doing and experiencing. She recalls that at first she did NOT want to learn how to read. Yet soon enough, she was not only reading books, but also writing and illustrating her own (mostly starring herself and an entourage of toys and dolls, at first). To this day, she can be found filling her sketchbooks with notes and drawings. She also enjoys taking lots of film photos of places she loves, hanging out with middle schoolers at her church, and working her way through an extensive list of films to watch. She hopes to graduate this spring so that she can finally get back to her list of books to read for fun: Les Miserables, and the works of Dorothy Sayers, G.K. Chesterton, and C.S. Lewis. One day, she would also like to build her own photo darkroom.
Board of Directors
It is an absolute joy when we experience three generations of family members engaging in the education here at SLOCA, and we have experienced that joy through the addition of Sandee to our Board of Directors. Sandee has three grandkids, now ages 5, 8, and 9 years, attending the school and she has been able to see them developing a thirst for learning and gaining a confidence in discovering everything around them. This unique approach to education, from an early age and throughout their school years, is doing wonders for her grandchildren and they are now teaching her the necessity of being a lifelong learner!
While she herself had not experienced a passion for learning until her early adult years, she opened her eyes to the many books available on diverse subjects, and the relationship between learning and travel. While raising her two children, Sandee fully engaged in her children’s education by being a volunteer at their school. She was subsequently elected to the Santa Barbara Districts School Board of Trustees and served in that capacity for four years. So it should have come as no surprise that, when relocating to SLO to be closer to her grandkids in their growing up years, she would eventually dive into supporting and championing their school.
Sandee’s favorite pastime is being with her grandkids and their parents, and I always have three books going, as well as Bible study. She is also married to a guy who loves golf, so she finds herself on the golf course several times a week, and hiking the marvelous trails of SLO County.
In this next year, Sandee wants to pursue her study of Italian. She and her husband travel to Italy each year, seeking out the small towns, where the locals graciously allow her to try to speak their language, and will answer her in Italian, rather than English. She also wants to do some background reading on the subjects that her grandkids are studying this next year, so she can keep up with them!
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.
HS History Teacher & College Advisor
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.
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.
Shannon DalPorto likes books, and she likes that SLOCA students like them, too. “Bookstores are enchanting to me,” she says. But perhaps the only thing better than working at a bookstore is working at a school like SLOCA, where “kids are able to read books like Beowulf from their early years into their high school years, advancing into more detailed copies as they move up.” As our new Development Assistant, Shannon is also pursuing a B.A. in sociology, with a concentration in criminal justice, from Cal Poly. Her love of learning is rooted in memories of her mother, who taught her to read before Shannon began any formal schooling. A native of Orange County, Shannon also loves playing with her cats, cooking tasty Italian food, and practicing new yoga poses.
HS Science Teacher
After a one-year hiatus, we are thrilled to welcome Sonja Bair back to her science teaching post at the High School!
A Michigan native, Sonja attended Hope College where she received her BS in Biology, and went on to receive Masters’ degrees in Environmental Health and Industrial Hygiene before teaching for a public school in the state. Six years ago she was wooed to SLO by the prospect of working at SLOCA (we’re sure it had nothing to do with the weather!) and how a classical education fosters the connections between subjects. Anyone who has taken a class from Sonja (Biology! Earth Science! Chemistry! Physics!) will not be surprised by the fact that this is her favorite thing about the education at SLOCA. What they might be surprised to find out is that she was almost held back in kindergarten because she just didn't care about learning. But then, halfway through first grade, her best friend told me about the best library book ever, "The Little Blue Bug" (she still remembers the cover). She checked it out and, to her horror, realized she couldn't read it! She remembers staring at the words, knowing that there must be some wonderful treasure hidden in the letters, but she couldn't decipher them. The frustration she felt propelled her to teach herself to read in short order. From then on, she realized that treasures do indeed live between the covers of a book. So much so that she’s even written one of her own!
When she’s not diving into the exciting world of scientific discovery with her high school students, you’ll find Sonja hanging out with her husband, kids and puppy. And by “hanging out”, she means working on the fixer-upper house they just bought...
Sonja’s quest for learning in the year ahead is to discover how to bring technology into the classroom in meaningful and appropriate ways.
Stacey describes herself as having been a naturally inquisitive child who was always passionate about learning. She found, growing up in Santa Maria, that certain learning environments allowed her curiosity to flourish and special teachers over the years helped to motivate and challenge her. The blessing of having so many great teachers inspired her to likewise become an educator, which led her to Cal Poly for a B.S. in Liberal Studies and then to obtain a teaching credential. While pursuing her credential, Stacey found herself tutoring a SLOCA student; and experience which allowed her to see, first hand, the difference in knowledge and understanding that a young student was capable of. She knew then that she wanted to be apart of this school someday!
In the years following her time at Cal Poly, she and her husband have had three children; and, when the time came for her eldest to begin school in 2015, she knew exactly where he would be going. She loved knowing that her children would be benefitting from an amazing group of educators at SLOCA who would be part of instilling the love of learning in them.
Since her eldest began school, Stacey has enjoyed 2 years at SLOCA as a parent, in which she’s especially enjoyed helping Emily at the Library with her quietly mischievous toddler. That mischievous young man becomes a preschooler this year and Stacey thrilled to be able to work at the school where all three of her children are. She remains impressed with the work environment and team-like culture at SLOCA. Even in her volunteering, she has found it to be “an exceptional place to grow professionally and learn from teachers who are passionate about Classical Education.”
Stacey appreciates the way that Classical Education has facilitated her family’s reading of incredible literature together, and because many of the classics are first-time reads for her, she gets to discover them right alongside her children. The Cote family has learned so much about history, art and science through the narratives they've read and Stacye looks forward to all the learning and growing they will continue to do together on their homeschooling adventure.
When she's not at school or homeschooling, Stacey can be found painting with watercolors with her daughter, reading books with a toddler on her lap, adventuring in Montana de Oro with her family and reorganizing some cabinet or drawer. (She really loves things to be organized!)
The next stop on her own continuous journey of learning? Mastering the art of creating authentic Thai food. Yum!
HS 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.
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.
HS History & English Teacher
Tami Kozinski grew up in California, Afghanistan, and Greece. As you might imagine, this upbringing imparted to her a fascination with culture and philosophy entirely befitting a SLOCA history/English teacher and faculty mentor. After earning her degree from Westmont College in Montecito (BA in Sociology, with a Secondary Teaching Credential), Tami completed her graduate study in Great Books at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico (MA in Liberal Arts). She credits St. John’s as her first formative classical education experience, an event she describes as waking from a long sleep. Following St. John’s, Tami immersed herself further in in the discipline of rhetoric, teaching Trivium courses at Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, Wyoming. Classical education, she says, disposes the human person to discern a complex and integrated reality, as well as basic first principles. As the etymology suggests, education (Latin ēdūcere, "to lead out") is a “leading out into light.” In addition to her passion for writing and rhetoric (helping people develop a voice, written or spoken), she also loves painting, calligraphy, and just plain thinking. One day she aspires to get an old, cool car and learn how to fix it herself.
Director of Academic Life
Thaddeus Kozinski grew up on Long Island, New York, and has been making his way westward ever since. Before joining SLOCA in 2018 as Director of Academic Life, Dr. Kozinski served as Academic Dean and Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Wyoming Catholic College. He was educated at Villanova (BS in Hard Sciences), St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico (MA in Classics), and the Catholic University of America (PhD in Philosophy). He credits the writings of Plato and C.S. Lewis for first revealing to him the necessity of caring for one’s soul through the pursuit of wisdom. Following in their venerable footsteps, Dr. Kozinski believes that classical education can help people encounter reality as it is, and was thus drawn to SLOCA’s mission of offering classical education to all who desire it. He also loves playing competitive racquetball and beach volleyball, listening to post-rock music, practicing silent meditation, lifting weights, writing, and being with his family. As a newly minted Californian, he aspires to learn how to surf and hopes you will wave if you see him cruising the streets of SLO on his scooter.
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.
Board of Directors
Tim Ronda grew up in Bonny Doon, California; a tiny little community in Santa Cruz County which began as a logging camp and was named after a line of Robert Burns’ poetry - for all you poetry fans and/or fanatic Scots in the audience. Tim embraced a love of learning early in his youth and sought a well-rounded education in college, pursuing a Bachelor’s in Architecture with a Minor in Philosophy at Cal Poly. The Ronda family came to SLOCA in 2005 (the dawn of SLOCA time!) for the emphasis the school placed on classic literature and integrated history. Since then, Tim and his wife have given countless hours to volunteering their time and talents to supporting our school’s community. While Tim has a day job as an architect, he has employed much of his professional know-how in his volunteer work at SLOCA, as his main aim in joining the Board has been to help with long-term facility planning. We are most grateful for Tim’s work in the complete remodel of our beloved high school campus! While there is much to occupy his time, both in his day-job and his work for SLOCA, Tim is hoping to devote a bit of time this year to a new line of work: Ford Bronco truck repair.
Board of Directors
Todd is a local boy, which probably won’t surprise you, given the recognizability of his family’s name and the role their farm plays in our county - a family farm at which he continues to work to this day. He grew up in Arroyo Grande, always enjoying school; and, when the time came, he migrated to the big city to receive his education in Political Economy at UC Berkeley. However, the Central Coast still had a hold on him and before long he was back in the area and bringing up the next generation of Talleys. Todd and his wife Jill have been huge supporters of the school, practically from the day they first heard of it, even before their own kids were old enough to attend! They were drawn to the classical education model because it enables us to study and take part in the Great Conversation that has occurred for millennia and is still taking place today. When Todd is not working on the farm or tending to his duties as the Chair of SLOCA’s Finance Committee, you’ll find him spending time with family, serving at church, running, hiking, and reading.
UMS & HS Math 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.
Valerie Neuschwander believes that SLOCA has a great story to tell, a story that she is proud to be a part of. Before joining the staff in 2017 as merchandising assistant, Valerie’s story went like this: Sometime during her eldest’s kindergarten year, she noticed that “my curious child that truly loved learning about everything really did not like going to school - and that just didn't sit well with me.” Drawn instead to the “richness and depth” of classical education at SLOCA, Valerie and her family have come to value “the attention paid to goodness, truth and beauty and how these make you whole, not just education as a means to an end or the latest fad.” (I’m sold!) She grew up in Pleasanton, CA, and holds a degree in business and marketing from Cal Poly, SLO. Her hobbies include spending time with family and friends, running, and reading. She is also an aspiring calligrapher and water-color painter.
LMS Teacher (Track A&B); FF Teacher
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"!