Erica Crane -
Founding Principal / Superintendent
With a passion for inspiring young people through challenging academic and adventure experiences, Erica has always sought to push her students and teachers beyond what they once thought was possible. She believes in Expeditionary Learning and has worked as a School Designer with this organization and also as a teacher and leader in two of its schools. Erica helped create Validus Preparatory Academy, a public Expeditionary Learning high school in the South Bronx with a health and fitness mission. As the Instructional Guide and the driving force behind many school-wide initiatives, she worked to create a culture of innovation and student achievement in academics and character. Without a gym or a field, but with a belief in what was possible, Erica also grew a building-wide athletic department from scratch into one of the most successful small school programs in all of New York City. In addition, Erica has worked closely with five public EL schools in Connecticut as a School Designer. Erica’s spirit of adventure and love of healthy challenge are evident in her work and her play. She desires to craft a school where students find less distinction between the two as they embark on authentic, difficult learning experiences that inspire them to reach their potential at SAEL and beyond. She believes all students can achieve and they will if given the opportunity and high expectations. She earned an undergraduate degree in Psychology and a graduate degree in Physical Education from Columbia University and is a graduate of Thomaston High School in Connecticut. Erica is so proud to be a member of the SAEL Crew and a leader of such a dynamic, passionate staff.
Michelle O'Shea -
Founding Science Teacher
Michelle came to SAEL with nine years of experience teaching high school science. She taught at two high performing schools in the Bay Area and, while feeling blessed to teach in those communities, it has been her longtime goal to return to her hometown of Grass Valley to live and work as an educator. After graduating from Nevada Union High School, Michelle went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Environmental Science from Santa Clara University. She worked in the fields of fisheries biology and environmental toxicology before being drawn to teaching. She earned a Master’s degree in Education from Western Oregon University in 2004 and has been joyfully teaching ever since. Michelle was honored to be recognized as Leland High School’s Teacher of the Year in 2010. The selection was made based on her dedication to students and to the larger school community. As an educator who believes in the importance of inspiring students to participate actively in the improvement of their local and global community, Michelle finds it important to model activism and leadership. One of her proudest professional accomplishments came from the work she did to initiate a conversion to solar power at her school site, eventually expanding to become the nation’s largest solar power project within a school district. Michelle sees her greatest strength in the classroom as her ability to connect with and reach students with differing backgrounds, learning styles, and levels of initial motivation. Her end-of-year student evaluations often cite her diversified teaching strategies, patience, enthusiasm, humor, and caring as reasons why students are successful and why they enjoy her classes. Michelle emphasizes critical thinking and active student engagement in her classes and is excited to be a part of SAEL where this is a shared priority.
Dale Berry -
Founding Adventure/PE Teacher and Fieldwork
Adventure has been a consistent theme in Dale’s life and a powerful force in his personal and professional development. As a founding teacher at SAEL, Dale is thrilled at the opportunity to create a program that aligns itself to character and culture of the school’s mission and the Expeditionary Learning model. At Prescott College in Arizona, Dale received his BA from one of the best Adventure Education programs in the country. Dale started his career in education as a volunteer for a small, EL high school in the South Bronx, teaching students fitness, international sports, wilderness first aid, and providing opportunities for service as environmental stewards. As the cross-country coach, he helped young students from a diverse array of physical abilities develop a love of running and team culture, helping to create both life long runners and one of the most successful programs in New York City.
Working as an IT project manager for more than 10 years in London and New York, Dale balanced both his career in banking and his love of education before transferring his life back outside full-time, and following his dream to become an Adventure Educator.
Growing up in outback Australia, Dale spent his youth adventuring on the banks of the Murray River, and attributes this time period exploring diverse natural landscapes as the foundation to his affiliation with the natural world. His passion for sports and adventure guided many of his travels around the world, but none more important than a 30,000 mile trip throughout Australia. Dale believes it is a privilege to be able to teach and to lead young people and he looks forward to helping students develop rich and binding connections with life outside. In addition, Dale played semi- professional Australian Rules Football in his home country, has adventured around the world, and loves to move through natural landscapes as an ultra-runner and mountain biker.
I am excited to join the team at SAEL I bring my life, education and career experience to help the students to develop strong character and leadership skills. I am a fourth generation Nevada County resident. I have lived in this area for most of my life except during college where I studied Animal Science and Criminal Justice at Sierra Community College and California State University Chico I then went on to the Butte Police Academy graduating with honors. During my summers I worked as an Outfitter Guide and Packer for guided back county horse trips.
After college, I started my 30 plus year Career in Law Enforcement. Working first as a Reserve Fish and Game Warden, then moving on to becoming a full time Police Officer and finishing my Law Enforcement career as a Deputy Sheriff. During my career I had the opportunity to do many diverse assignments such as Search and Rescue, High Country Patrol, Field Training Officer, Department trainer, School Resource Officer, and Courthouse Security/Bailiff.
During that time I remember most fondly my assignment as a School Resource officer where I worked closely with both the staff and students at NUHS.
I personally love the outdoors and enjoy spending time in the high country with my wife Phyllis our Horses and Mule. We love adventures exploring the Sierra Nevadas and Rocky Mountains. We have a small ranch where we and raise Haflinger Horses and Mules. We currently have 11 grand children and love taking them on adventures in the outdoors from backpacking to horse trips and camping to fishing trips.
Marika joins the SAEL community filled with inspiration, energy, and optimism. She is excited to have the opportunity of teaching and learning within the expeditionary model which truly synthesizes her passions for education, artistic expression, nature connection, self discovery, and service. She believes that when immersed in nature, community, meaningful experience, and thoughtful dialogue, students start learning and unfolding more authentically because their own expanding sense of self is perfectly matched by the endless possibilities our earth and humanity provide. As a dedicated and mindful educator, she strives to guide and support students in aiming high, pursuing their goals, realizing their potential, and developing a strong sense of identity.
Born and raised in Walnut Creek, CA, Marika entered the world with a spirit of adventure and has always been eager to explore new ideas and places. After graduating high school, she traveled broadly for a few years before deciding to return to school for a new and expansive journey. Marika graduated magna cum laude from Humboldt State University in 2004, receiving her Bachelors of Arts degree in English Language Arts with minors in Native American Studies and ESL. She earned her Secondary Teaching Credential from Saint Mary’s College of California in 2005.
Over the last twelve years, Marika has taught students of all ages, in a variety of settings, and within diverse program models. She excelled in her previous middle and high school teaching positions and while taking a leave of absence from secondary education to be home with her own children, she continued to develop teaching and leadership skills by founding an early childhood program and serving as a youth scout leader with the Baden Powell Service Association. In addition to teaching and learning, some of Marika’s favorite things are strong coffee, glowing campfires, big trees, bright colors, silver jewelry, hearty laughter, live music, long hugs, and winding country roads.
Byron Bird -
Byron has been called a physics philosopher because of his desire to make physics a way of thinking about all sorts of problems, not just little wooden blocks sliding down ramps. Growing up near Yosemite, he took his earliest education from oak trees and granite boulders, eventually getting a “real” education in the backwoods of New York state. After teaching in Japan and doing some outdoor education near Santa Cruz, Byron decided it was time to build longer relationships with adventurous woodsy students back in the Sierra Foothills. He and his wife live on a small farm raising goats and chickens with two young boys, getting their educations, as it should be, from the open space and wildness of the mountains.
Kristina McLean -
Guidance / College Counselor
Kristina McLean joins the SAEL staff with a wealth of experience in providing guidance and support to high school students. She serves in a college and guidance counselor role while also providing community and parent outreach. She is also a proud SAEL parent, and recently moved to the area with her family from Chicago so that her children would have access to the wonderful Expeditionary Learning schools in the community. Kristina has also served as a social worker and has worked within community based organizations and schools throughout her professional career. She is a former SAEL Board Member and has taken part in a variety of SAEL volunteer work, centered mainly on community engagement and fundraising to help get the school program started. She has become part SAEL’s Site Council and, along with her daughter, Family Council.
Kaity is looking forward to joining the team at SAEL as a math teacher. She grew up in Nevada County, and first found out how much she enjoyed teaching math when she worked as a math tutor at Sierra College. After volunteering as a teacher for a year at Ruaha Secondary School in Tanzania, West Africa, Kaity decided to pursue a career in teaching. After returning home she transferred to UC Berkeley, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Mathematics. Kaity obtained her teaching credential through the Sacramento County Office of Education Teacher Intern Program. Through her time at Berkeley, her intern program, and teaching math for two years at a traditional public school in Sacramento, Kaity realized what she values most in math education is helping all students believe in their ability to learn math to the highest level. Kaity wants to support students by creating meaningful, collaborative, engaging, and challenging lessons, and celebrating students’ mistakes as a means for advancing their knowledge. She is very excited to be returning to Nevada City to teach at an EL school that supports all of these ideas.
Richard brings a diverse and skilled background that will be an asset to our students and community. A love of physical fitness and outdoor adventures started at a young age and informs Richard’s belief that the greatest growth, introspection and accomplishment transpire when the human mind and body is impelled beyond its comfort zone. While working towards a B.S. in Recreation Resource Management and an M.S. in Natural Resources Richard always sought to balance the pursuit of higher education with high-level adventure. Richard left every summer to work in the mountains for the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management and while on campus found community and employment leading outdoor adventure trips for the universities outdoor program. In the years since Richard has continued to blend his love for education and conservation while working for our nations public land management agencies across the Western US. When not working Richard has always sought out challenges to his own comfort zone. This thirst for challenge has taken him across the globe in search of new rivers, mountains and cultures. Newly married and settled in the foothills of California Richard spends his free time whitewater kayaking, rafting, mountain biking, running, skiing, climbing and staring at maps while dreaming up the next great adventure. Richard is thrilled to bring his energy and experience to the task of instilling a passion for lifetime fitness and adventure within the students at SAEL.
SAEL is looking for a .5FTE or half time Resource Specialist to start in the 20-21 school year. The application information and job description are posted below.
There are no additional TEACHING openings at this time. Any teachers who are serious about revolutionizing education with us can reach out to Principal / Superintendent Erica Crane at email@example.com with a resume and rationale for why you are interested in SAEL. Even if there is not an opening, we can keep your information on file. The rationale can take any format, from the body of an email, a video, a list, an infographic, or a more traditional cover letter.
Our sports teams are shared with Ghidotti and we always accept coaching applications in case there are shifts on staff in Cross Country, Track, Basketball, Volleyball, or Soccer.
SAEL Resource Specialist (.5FTE) Job Description 20-21.pdf
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Certificated SAEL Salary Step.pdf
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SAEL Office Manager Application Info and Job Description_9:2020.pdf
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Non-Certificated and Other Salary Step Schedule_2018 - Sheet1 (1).pdf
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SAEL Teacher Job Description_2019.pdf
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Sports Coach Job Description_2018-19 (1).docx.pdf
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SAEL is an equal opportunity employer. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, national origin, disability, or any other factor which cannot lawfully be used as a basis for an employment decision.
Amy Hooper -
Founding Social Science Teacher
Amy is beyond excited to be on the SAEL team! Growing up surrounded by the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, she heard the call of the natural world as a young child. Amy’s father, an elementary PE and History teacher, inspired her to become an explorer and a teacher.
Her sense of adventure compelled her to spend much of her free time traveling the world and immersing herself in diverse cultures and new experiences. She has backpacked in South America, Central America, Australia, and Europe. Amy studied abroad at Hobart University in Tasmania, Australia, where her passion for environmental and cultural involvement evolved deeply. Her experiences in Panama led Amy to a Teacher Fellowship from Earth Train, a leadership training organization based in Panama’s biologically and culturally rich jungle. She acted as a special adviser on "cross-biocultural learning" and is eager to continue her relationship with Earth Train to support the opportunity for students to go abroad as well. Her passion for adventure has given her a wide perspective on the world and plenty of ideas for opportunities that exist for the experiential learning of Geography and History.
Amy attended the University of Nevada, Reno, studying Secondary Education with an emphasis in Social Studies and English as a Second Language. After receiving her B.A. from UNR, she made it her goal to find a hands-on learning environment in the Social Science field. Prior to arriving in the Sierra foothills, Amy took part in teaching 8th grade History and Language Arts in Truckee, California. Her discovery of Expeditionary Learning at SAEL offers the perfect outlet for Amy’s love for learning and adventure. She brings to SAEL a passion for inspiring and challenging youth through educational experiences that explore and connect with Social Science.
Ryan eagerly joins the SAEL team knowing that she has found her perfect career match. Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, Ryan was introduced to and captivated by a variety of cultures and lifestyles. Her thirst for learning and new experiences drew her to pursue a college education on the other side of the country. While studying at Wheaton College in Massachusetts, she fell in love with the human mind and declared her major in Psychology. Ryan also studied Spanish, leading her to Mendoza, Argentina in the foothills of the Andes for a six month study abroad program. During this time she was inspired to minor in Hispanic studies as well.
After receiving her B.A. from Wheaton College, Ryan traveled to satisfy her inner adventurer and to please her self-declared foodie appetite. Once she landed in the Foothills of the Sierras, with its accessibility to outdoor recreation, the changing of the seasons, and the small town charm she had grown to love back East, she knew she was home. A passion for education combined with her leadership and teaching experience pointed Ryan to California State University at Sacramento where she earned her single subject credential in English.
Ryan is thrilled to join the team at SAEL where she can contribute her love for the English arts, adventuring spirit, and positivity towards the education of today’s great young minds. She’s excited to be teaching, but equally looking forward to the learning experiences that being a part of a cutting edge community will bring.
Caitlin is excited to be joining SAEL as a math teacher. Caitlin believes that everyone can be a math person, and the best way to make this happen is to facilitate hands-on, active lessons. She found her passion for teaching in college where she tutored peers and taught outdoor education classes. After graduating Stanford with a B.S in Earth Systems, she moved to Wisconsin to teach high school students at Conserve School. This experience made her realize that teaching was the right choice for her. Upon returning to California, she could not wait to start working in an EL classroom. Now, at SAEL, Caitlin hopes to share her love of math with students and give them concrete and fun examples of when math can be used outside the classroom. Caitlin also loves spending her time reading, exploring mountains, snowboarding, biking, photography, and traveling.
It is a great honor and privilege to be given the opportunity of becoming a part of the educational family at SAEL. I come with 20 years of experience in the educational system, 11 of which have been dedicated to students with special needs. Growing up in the small Central Valley town of Delano, it gave me a front row seat to the labor movement Ceasar Chavez started. It inspired me to dedicate my life to supporting the underrepresented.
While attending community college in Visalia, I worked at an amazing organization called California Mini-Corp which serviced migrant students from all over California. This provided valuable insight for me while studying at San Diego State in pursuit of my sociology degree. After graduating college, I began my credential program at San Jose State University. My first official teaching position was with San Jose Job Corp as a Special Education Teacher . My following position was with East Side Union High School District as a Special Education Teacher where I eventually became Department Chair and developed further as an educator. After working at Nevada Union and Del Oro High Schools locally, I sought out Sierra Academy for our innovative, small program.
My family and I relocated to Grass Valley in 2017 to live more sustainably and among the beauty that surrounds us. I love discovering new places, cultures, foods, and languages. I have traveled to Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica and several states within our country. Our world is changing rapidly and our kids deserve to be taught the skills needed to grow and thrive. My goal is to help students build resilience and self confidence to be able to pursue their goals and curiosities.
Megan eagerly joins the SAEL team as one of our Social Science teachers. Growing up in the diverse melting pot of Los Angeles, she was exposed to and fascinated by the wide array of cultures and languages around the world from an early age. Her desire to think critically and engage with people from all walks of life eventually led her to Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, where she received her BA in Sociology and Anthropology. Here, she jumped headfirst into hiking, kayaking, and river rafting all over the Pacific Northwest and participated on her very first trip outside of the US on a four month study abroad program to Kenya and Tanzania. Her days abroad were spent surveying marine conservation efforts in the Indian Ocean, living amongst members of one of the last remaining hunter-gatherer tribes in the world, and conducting written and verbal surveys in Swahili to research educational opportunities for females in rural villages throughout the region.
Megan first joined the SAEL community back in 2015 as a long-term substitute, where she helped lead classes in every subject and supported a variety of fieldwork outings for all grade levels. Her thirst for travel was far from over, however, and after her first year with us she decided to take some time to solo-backpack through Europe, live and work on farms in the Scottish Highlands and rural Maine, and serve as a teaching assistant at a Nature Center high up in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina for a year. Her love not only for California but most importantly for teaching has brought her back to her home state and the great professional community at SAEL.
Her participation and work in the progressive EL model, along with her thirst for travel and adventure, has cemented her belief that hands-on experience outside of the classroom can challenge and transform young adults in ways that traditional forms of education simply cannot. As someone who has developed an enthusiasm for the power of this kind of philosophy not only in education but in life, Megan returns to Sierra Academy with a passion for learning and an eagerness to work hard and grow alongside both colleagues and students alike.
I find it very rewarding to help people learn, practice and master Spanish, my native language. My interest in languages and literature started at an early age, I grew up bilingual in Spanish and Catalan, and later I studied French and English.
I hold a BA in Humanities (Language and Literature, History, Art, Philosophy) from a Spanish university. In 2010 I earned an Español Lengua Extranjera (ELE) teaching certificate from the International House and University of Barcelona (UB). Since then, I have been teaching Spanish to students of different levels, ages, and educational backgrounds. Wanting to further my education, in 2012 I completed a Masters in Teaching Spanish as a foreign language. In the last two years, I have taken additional courses covering: Second Language Acquisition, Teaching Methodology, Literacy Across Content Areas, Common Core State Standards, Blended and Online Learning and Dual purpose lessons.
Through my education and teaching experience, I have learned about multiple intelligences and learning styles, to apply different teaching methodologies and to customize instruction in order to meet learners´ needs. I use data gathered from the lessons to plan instruction and adjust my teaching. With all this in mind, I make sure to provide equal opportunities for all learners. In that regard, I support learners through a collaborative model that combines language development, critical thinking and cultural responsive teaching. I believe in implementing an interdisciplinary approach linking skills and topics across the curriculum. As for assessment and evaluation, I give prompt feedback to my students focusing on the strengths before moving to the areas for growth.
My hobbies are sports (Mountain Biking, Tennis, Soccer, Track & Field, Swimming, Paddling) and ballroom dance (Tango, Lindy Hop, Blues, Salsa). I feel honored to be part of SAEL team. I want to contribute to the Crew to make our learning expeditions educational and fun!
I graduated from Sierra College in 2013 with an Associates of Arts Degree in Computer Information Systems with a Computer Service Tech Concentration of studies.
I love working with and on computers, solving computer problems, and helping keep the network running. In my off time, I enjoy computer gaming both on and offline as well as watching action type movies. I am excited for the opportunity to work at Sierra Academy and feel like I am a great addition to the team.
Greg Geraldo comes to SAEL from Yuba City, California. As a former Math and English teacher at a large, traditional public high school, he is excited to engage in Expeditionary Learning with SAEL’s smaller, more personal campus. Greg spent his youth nearby the rivers, lakes, and trails of Northern California. A classically trained violist, Greg performed with several community orchestras and quartets in his hometown, and went on to play in college. Today, he practices guitar in his free time, and aspires to get involved in the Gold Country music scene. The Boy Scouting program was a formative influence in his life and he contends that the best summers of his life were spent as a Harbormaster, water sports instructor, and counselor at Camp Winton in Pioneer, CA. His Scouting experience culminated in earning the Eagle Scout award and a lifelong love for the outdoors. As an undergraduate at Lewis & Clark College, Greg studied a breadth of subjects on the Portland, Oregon campus and abroad in Dublin, Ireland. While abroad, he worked with the Dublin Youth Theatre as a management intern and joyfully studied Irish music, theatre, and culture. Psychology was Greg’s primary course of study, and he earned the Miller Internship Grant to study Developmental ADHD at Oregon Health & Science University. Greg’s senior capstone project focused on the psychological effects of framing on political preference in the United States. Greg is thrilled to be a part of the SAEL Crew. He is passionate about student engagement, and believes firmly that his role as a teacher and CREW leader is to challenge students to push their limits, support them as individuals, and exemplify the joys and fulfillment of lifelong learning.
Lynn happily takes the position of Art Facilitator at SAEL and is excited to share her passion for the arts with each and every student. She has a love for fiber arts and the making of everyday, useful objects more aesthetically pleasing. The world is a beautiful place and our lives should be surrounded by it.
After receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies from the Hutchins School (a specialized school inside of Sonoma State University) she continued on to earn her credential from Sonoma State.
She believes that everyone should realize that they can do art, no matter how it turns out. Playing with varied artistic mediums for enjoyment is a must. Art is for everyone. It opens the doors of creativity, teaches you time management skills, and gives you confidence. Art teaches you to pay attention to detail, to focus, and how to persevere through things that might make you uncomfortable.
Lynn has successfully raised her three children to adulthood. Two of them are currently attending prestigious colleges on the east coast. They are each artistic in their own way.