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.

Suzanne Hardin -

 Office Manager 

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.

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.

Ryan Love - 

English Teacher

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 - 

Physics Teacher 

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.

John Parkhouse - 

Character Dean

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. 

Desmond Sandy - 

Elective Teacher for Odyssey of the Mind / Maker Class and Musicology

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.

India Greeley - 

English Teacher, Resource Specialist
From day one India has had an adventurous and inquisitive mindset. She prides herself on her love and appreciation for life and takes every opportunity to learn new things. While maintaining and building relationships, India believes that empathy is the key to success.  She brings a similar approach into the classroom. Learning is an extremely vulnerable experience and India realizes that to make true connections with her students and to help nurture critical thinkers, the curriculum and assessments must have real life relevance. She earned her Bachelors of Arts in Literature and Writing from California State University San Marcos. Shortly after graduating, India moved to Salem, Massachusetts where she worked in a middle school Special Education classroom while earning her Masters of Education with an emphasis in Arts and Learning. After becoming a mother, India felt a calling to support new mother’s and earned certification as a Breastfeeding Specialist and Birth Doula. She moved to Nevada City a year ago, with her husband so they could raise their three boys in an area with small town culture, outdoor adventure, and country values. India is very excited to join the SAEL community where she can bring her background of arts integration to life through the Expeditionary Learning model.

For the 17-18 School Year SAEL is looking for additional full time English, Art, Math (and potentially Science in a single position), and Adventure/PE teachers to join our Crew! There may be some elective full and part time opportunities as well. See below for the full application packet and process. Ideally candidates have submitted applications by FEB 28 so that we can interview in March.

Michelle O'Shea -

Science Teacher

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 Teacher 

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.

Brooke Sandy -

Yoga, Resource Specialist 

 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.” 

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.

Mary Hunter - 

Office Aide 
(Attendance and Student Records)
Mary Hunter has earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business from Chico State University.  A Bay Area native, she and her family have lived in Nevada County for 20 years. She has the ideal balance of office administrative skills and passion for EL education to be a perfect addition to 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 classrooms 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 will be a great asset to our crew.  And her warmth, good humor and love of young people will be 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.   

Sara James - 

Resource Specialist / Intro To SAEL Teacher

Sara James is a powerful student advocate who comes to SAEL via the UK, with a passion for empowering and supporting all learners to excel. Spending much of her early childhood in Africa, she then attended a boarding school in England and earned her Bachelors of Art in Philosophy from the University of Leeds.

Sara completed her teacher training through the prestigious Teach First program, graduating as an Honors Ambassador. Initially teaching Social Studies, English and Comparative World Religion, Sara was a departmental chair and later joined the administrative team to support the school during a period of dynamic change. At the age of 19, Sara set up the Leeds Uganda Project which takes University students out to rural Uganda to work on educational development projects. It continues to be run by students at the University of Leeds and has raised over $750,000 and had over 500 volunteers working at 20 different schools.

Sara moved to California in 2013 in order to pursue her Masters in Special Education at Sierra Nevada College. Her research was focused on inclusive practices and the application of Expeditionary Learning principles to support students with learning disabilities. 

An avid white-water kayaker, Sara brings with her to SAEL a real passion for adventure. She has travelled and competed around the world including tackling the challenging rapids of the Zambezi river, completing multi days trips in the Himalayas, dropping waterfalls in Iceland and competing at the 2009 World Kayak Freestyle Championships. When there is no water around Sara likes to ski, climb, hike or generally frolic outside. She is a Pro Team Ambassador for Adventure Technology and Palm Equipment.

Sara is excited to be on the SAEL Crew as as she she fully embodies the idea that we are "Crew, not passengers."

Katrina Fengler - 

Art Teacher

Katrina is an artist and educator with a strong belief in the importance of an aesthetic education. While exploring artwork from Mexico City, Mexico to Paris, France, as well as throughout the United States, Katrina developed a love for art from diverse cultures. After graduating from Arizona State University with a BFA in Art Education, Katrina taught art in Phoenix for four years. In 2015, she was accepted into the graduate school of California State University, Long Beach to pursue her Masters in Art Education.

Believing that education offers transformative experiences, Katrina builds her art lessons with a focus on allowing students opportunities to construct a thorough understanding of materials and techniques. Seeing students grow, develop confidence in their skills, and persevere through challenges, makes teaching art incredibly rewarding. It is her mission to connect students to the world of art, its history and its place in contemporary life. Too often art is perceived as something exclusive, inaccessible or even frivolous. Katrina hopes to convey to the students of SAEL how art and aesthetics can matter to each of them; art not only provides a window into an understanding of different people, cultures and histories, it also offers the opportunity for self-cultivation and a way to become fully human. 

Hugo Díaz Rodil - 

Spanish Teacher

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!

Caitlin Scheder - 

Math Teacher
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. 

We spent 100% of our EPA funds on Teacher's salaries.

See below for the Staff and Volunteer Handbook. This document clearly explains our expectations and policies for all staff, faculty, and volunteers at SAEL. 

Staff and Volunteer Handbook_110916.pdf Staff and Volunteer Handbook_110916.pdf
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Employment Opportunities

For the 17-18 school year, SAEL will be looking for an additional full time Math/Sci Teacher, a full time Adventure/PE Teacher, and an English Teacher. Potentially there may be elective positions as well, both full and part time. SAEL is always looking for solid substitute teachers. See below for Job Descriptions and applications. Ideally applicants have applied by February 28th so interviews can begin in March.

If you are passionate about revolutionizing education with us, please reach out to Principal Erica Crane at with a resume and rationale for why you are interested in SAEL. The rationale can take any format, from the body of an email, a video, a list, an infographic, or a more traditional cover letter.

SAEL App for All Teachers_October 2015.pdf SAEL App for All Teachers_October 2015.pdf
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SAEL App for Classified Staff_May 2016.pdf SAEL App for Classified Staff_May 2016.pdf
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SAEL Core Teacher Description_October 2015.pdf SAEL Core Teacher Description_October 2015.pdf
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SAEL Adventure.PE Job Description Feb 2016.pdf SAEL Adventure.PE Job Description Feb 2016.pdf
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1 SAEL Salary Step Schedule_051715.pdf 1 SAEL Salary Step Schedule_051715.pdf
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SAEL is an equal opportunity employer. We don’t discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, gender, sexual orientation, age, national origin, or disability.


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