Erica Crane -
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 proud 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, determined staff.
Amy Hooper -
Social Science Teacher
Amy is beyond excited to join 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.
She is building a curriculum that involves hands-on projects related to the understanding and appreciation of cultural and natural environments. She is looking forward to a challenging, fun, and rewarding first year with SAEL!
Patrick Millar -
Social Science Teacher
Since he could formulate his first words, Patrick has been asking “too many” questions about the way the world works. Blessed with a patient and nurturing family, his curiosity blossomed into an adventurous thirst to experience an ever-evolving range of unique life experiences. Growing up as a local here in Grass Valley, Patrick was lucky enough to develop a passion for the area’s many outdoor action sports on water, land and snow. Moving that passion to entrepreneurship, he opened a local surf and skate shop in Rocklin at the age of 19. Realizing that business did not provide answers to life’s deeper questions, Patrick went back to school at Sierra College to study everything under the sun. Finding that the study of history and humanities not only allowed, but also encouraged, this type of eclectic philosophical wanderlust. Patrick transferred to study at Sacramento State full time where he received a B.A. Summa Cum Laude in Social Science. During his time at Sac State, Patrick lived and studied abroad in Cambodia where he received a research fellowship from the Center for Khmer Studies, as well as in Leeds, England where he studied international relations. These experiences, along with several backpacking trips including a summer long Central America excursion, have given Patrick the disposition that the world is in dire need of understanding the human condition through multiple perspectives. While abroad, Patrick taught English at a Buddhist monastery to local students living in poverty. Through seeing and experiencing firsthand the empowerment education can bestow on individual lives, he became passionate about teaching. Upon returning home, Patrick took a position as a reading instructor for all ages with the Institute of Reading Development and went back to complete his teaching credential at CSUS. Believing wholeheartedly in the transformative power of story and narrative, Patrick is ecstatic to bring his varied background and talents to share with SAEL students. He envisions a world in which adventure and education are seamlessly intertwined, where students are taught the true power of their capabilities, and feels strongly that SAEL and EL is the future of a desperately needed movement toward more relevant and integrated education.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I graduated in 2011 with a B.A. in English with a British Literature concentration. In December 2015 I earned my M.A.ed in Secondary Education. I began teaching in 2015 in Arizona but found myself feeling stifled as an educator in terms of moving through the material because we “should” rather than being able to delve deeper into the units with which the students really connected. I found I was most successful when I adapted my materials and gave the students ownership of their own learning. Often I would stop the lesson and walk my students outdoors to provide an active and hands on learning opportunity instead. Imagine my delight when I found out about SAEL on a visit home. As a native of Colfax, I have significant roots in the area and am excited to be back around family and friends. Before and while being an educator, I have been a professional pole vaulter and bring my love for both athletic/adventure pursuits and academics to SAEL.
Doug is happy to be joining SAEL as the special education coordinator and teacher. He will also be teaching film studies and marine biology. After graduating from The Evergreen State College with two bachelor degrees in marine ecology (BS) and filmmaking (BA) Doug worked as a marine mammal biologist, and had a career in science and nature filmmaking that allowed him to combine his two passions. Having worked as a filmmaker from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, to the Pacific, and the Atlantic and Gulf regions, Doug is now focused on teaching. Currently completing a masters of science in special education, Doug is excited to be working with students in an expeditionary setting. Doug especially likes to spend time outside birdwatching, observing nature, swimming, skiing, mountain biking, and spending time with his family.
Desmond Sandy is a California native through and through with a Sacramento birth, Redding upbringing, and a UC Santa Barbara education. Having studied English Literature with the goal of becoming a teacher, Desmond was torn between adventure and professional development. The solution after graduating was teaching classes at a summer camp at Ojai Valley School for two summers, split by a WWOOF experience on an Alaskan organic vegetable farm. Significant time as a substitute teacher satiated his desire to teach while he explored drumming in a band, surfing, skiing and traveling through life with Brooke Sandy. Basic woodwork, welding, auto-mechanics, electrical, sewing, writing, sales, and customer service are all skills that define Desmond and have culminated in the creation of Gold Crush climbing gym in Grass Valley. With two business partners and and amazingly generous community, Desmond spent 2016 applying (and exhausting) every skill and mental capacity he has acquired over the years to build and run Gold Crush. He and Brooke also had their first son in February 2016 and have been loving every moment with him. Desmond is thrilled to join the incredible team at SAEL. Being appreciated for my hodge-podge of skills and getting the opportunity to share my knowledge means a lot. With technology always providing prompt “solutions” throughout our busy lives, it’s so important to be able to think multi-dimensionally, and to act with intention. I feel like SAEL really encourages and exemplifies this approach and I’m excited to contribute. With his wife, Brooke Sandy as a current teacher, substitute teaching at SAEL, leading a two-week climbing intensive, and attending various SAEL adventures, Desmond is new but familiar. The main difference is that now the students have to call him Mr. Sandy.
Michelle O'Shea -
Michelle comes 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 -
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.
Kristina McLean -
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.
Brooke Sandy -
Resource Specialist Teacher
Brooke has a strong passion for teaching, learning, adventure, inclusion and connection. She is a great advocate for her students and leads with her heart. Her students inspire her to continue to grow, accept and take risks. She received her Education Specialist Credential along with her Masters in Education from the University of California Santa Barbara, where she also received her Bachelor of Arts in Film Studies. She has taught students with a wide range of abilities and has strived to work through many diverse challenges with her students. She is motivated to work together as a team with families and students to prepare students for life beyond school. The lessons that she has learned from her students have helped Brooke to become who she is. She strongly believes that all students with all different abilities should be treated as equal members within the school community. Due to her advocacy for inclusive education, she attained her Multiple Subjects Credential in 2014. Brooke is also a certified yoga instructor. The ability to move from within and find her breath is what connects Brooke to her teaching and daily life. With an unending spirit for adventure, Brooke has summited 14,000 ft. mountain peaks, ran half marathons and one full marathon and has completed 210 miles of the John Muir Trail. She has traveled to a variety of different countries and studied abroad for a semester in Chile. Her teaching can be summed up by the following proverb: “Tell me-I will forget. Show me-I may remember. Involve me-I will understand.”
Suzanne Hardin -
Office Manager and Guidance Support
Suzanne has lived in Nevada County since 1995. She comes to SAEL with nearly 20 years experience working in the computer industry. She has worked for a multitude of cutting edge organizations, including Apple, Microsoft, and NASA Ames Research Center.
After leaving the computer industry, Suzanne changed course and began working in Libraries. She has nearly six years experience working in schools and for the County Library. Suzanne loves to read and has a passion for encouraging young people to read more. Suzanne fashioned her libraries to be a safe environment, where everyone was welcome, and everyone could succeed. While at Penn Valley Schools, Suzanne was the Program Coordinator for Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. Suzanne has made it a goal in her life to educate people against bullying.
Suzanne has a degree in both English and French. She is presently working on getting a certification in Education Consulting, and plans to use that to help high school students pursue their college dreams. When Suzanne is not at work, she is traveling the world. She has lived in France, and speaks fluent French. She loves to sing. She enjoys cooking and canning vegetables from her garden. Her family raises chickens, turkeys, goats and sheep.
Suzanne is very excited to be a part of the SAEL Crew, and hopes to use her multiple talents to help young people have a positive experience in education.
Mary Hunter has earned a Bachelor's Degree in Business from Chico State. A Bay Area native, she and her family have lived in Nevada County for over 20 years.She has the ideal balance of office administrative skills and passion for EL Education to be a perfect teammate on our front office staff. She has previously worked for several years at Grass Valley Charter School as an instructional aide for the middle school program, contributing to the expansion of EL principles on the playground as well as in the classroom and staff rooms. Additionally, she has worked as a customer service account specialist, office manager, and logistics coordinator. Her organizational skills and attention to detail are a great asset to our Crew! And her warmth, good humor, and love of young people is appreciated by all who call or visit Sierra Academy. For fun, she dances! Look for her fast feet the next time you see the Tommyknocker Cloggers performing in town.
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!
Sonya enthusiastically joins the SAEL crew with a creative drive and passion for the arts including dance, visual, and language arts.
Since 2005 Sonya has pursued her passion for dance, training in a variety of styles including ballet, modern, hip hop, African, jazz, Oriental dance and others. She has taught, coached and co-directed for the Bear River High School dance program and has danced professionally as a principle dancer with Sacramento based company Nhan Ho Project. Sonya approaches dance not only as an athletic discipline but as an art form, tool for self discovery and collaboration, and opportunity for community engagement.
As a visual artist of many forms and mediums, Sonya values the process of exploration and experimentation and loves turning unexpected errors into new possibilities. As a teacher of art, Sonya finds SAEL’s student centered model to be particularly valuable, as she believes in the power of art for personal expression and as a journey in creative problem solving. Sonya believes that art is everywhere and presents itself in many forms. She believes that everyone is capable of artistic endeavors and values a resourceful, process based approach.
Sonya believes that the arts provide an opportunity for students to learn about themselves and connect to the world around them, and language arts are no exception. Sonya obtained her B.A magna cum laude in English as well as a minor in dance and a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certificate from Sacramento State University and is currently perusing her Master's degree. Sonya hopes that as a teacher at SAEL she can empower students to be confident and curious lifelong learners and creators.
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.
Jill enthusiastically joins the SAEL team knowing that she has finally realized her childhood dream of becoming a high school math teacher in an environment where she can use her passion for math and ability to provide students with real world applications to inspire them to see math as an important part of their education.
After spending 18 successful years in the for-profit and non-profit sectors as a human resources executive, Jill moved to foothills and decided to pursue her long term aspiration to become a teacher and share the love for math that she developed in elementary school.
Jill holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies from UCLA where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa and a Master’s in Business Administration from San Diego State University. Additionally, Jill holds both multiple subject and single subject (mathematics) teaching credentials. Prior to joining SAEL, Jill taught mathematics for 3 years using the CPM (College Preparatory Math) curriculum.
Jill’s loves to spend her free time with her husband of 30 years and 3 boys. She enjoys watching her boys play baseball and basketball, running and training for marathons, water skiing, snow skiing, biking, dirt bike riding and vacationing in the Caribbean.
Jill looks forward to working with students and getting them excited about learning math but more importantly she hopes to help them develop a passion for becoming lifelong learners.
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.