People of RTS
Ella Gamm Mentor
After growing up in Ojai, Ella began working at an independent school in Los Angeles and fell in love with progressive education. Her experience with children centers around the importance of project based learning, social emotional development, play and block building.
Ella spent a year in Portland, OR teaching at a charter school in the Portland Children's Museum with a focus on nature based education and story workshops.
Ella enjoys cooking, hiking, reading, yoga and being in nature.
Casey Murphy Mentor
Casey Murphy has been working with youth for two decades. Most of his outdoor experience was with Outward Bound, where he was introduced to the concepts of non-violent communication, diversity, transformative leadership and how the wilderness can be a cathartic backdrop for learning.
His experience in the classroom was mostly with the Empowerment Workshop, a non profit that facilitates discussions around equity, consent, privilege and health with youth.
Originally from Ojai, CA, Casey spent a few years traveling abroad studying Buddhism, rock climbing, and generally getting lost more or less on purpose. Nowadays he does a lot of spearfishing, attends BLM events and wears a mask.
Jim Bailey Mentor
Jim has been teaching in the Ojai Valley for 18 years. He brings his experience from science classroom settitngs as well as years of youth mentor-ship through the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation.
Jim's current work of self-directed education focuses on the design of informal learning environments and loose parts play theory.
Jim is a certified California Naturalist and enjoys studying the geology, insects, micro-invertebrates, and birds of the Ojai Valley. His love of the natural world and of people is also expressed in his volunteer work as a member of the Upper Ojai Mountain Search and Rescue Team.
Kelly Campbell "Farmer Kelly"
Director of Educational Gardens
Kelly enjoys connecting children of all ages to the natural world through food, art and creativity, which has been the central focus of her career. Before attending graduate school, she worked in Carpinteria elementary schools teaching garden education, and created flourishing, rich outdoor garden classrooms. Kelly served as the Education Director for at Fairview Gardens and created the children’s programs and educational gardens that exist on the farm today. She feels privileged to share her passion for a experiential, nature-based learning with our beautiful community. Kelly holds a Master of Science in Environmental Education.
Spencer Babcock Mentor
Spence has worked with youth in a variety of settings, from helping teens backpack in the desert, to teaching art in a middle school classroom. His background brings experience with construction, building, tinkering, designing, and making.
Spence spent a year working at Village Free School in Portland, Oregon and supported the Free To Learn Agile Learning Community in Sacramento, California.
He is passionate about finding ways to help more kids have the opportunities to learn through natural curiosity.
When he isn't creating or building something, he enjoys traveling the world, exploring mountains, running rivers, and stretching his imagining with his son.
Chrissy Dasco Mentor
As a teenager and young adult, Chrissy worked as a nanny, a volunteer in various classrooms, a camp counselor, and an intern at self-directed learning communities.
When she was 18 years old she began digging deeper into what it means to be educated and what it means to learn; eventually finding herself fully immersed in the world of self-directed education and unschooling.
Through varied opportunities to create her own education, Chrissy has found passion in examining the social and emotional development of children, social justice and community creation, and the functions and operations of the education system at large.
Chrissy's other interests include maintaining a dedicated yoga practice, textile arts, hiking, dancing, poetry, live music, and camping.
Vera Rodriguez Mentor
Vera is a Los Angeles-born artist living and creating in Ojai, CA. She began life
as a self-directed learner at Play Mountain Place, where she met the practices of
non-violent communication and experiential learning. She then went on to attend
an independent charter school that her mother founded, which shared the same
In 2005, she visited and observed life at Summerhill School (UK), she later attended Crossroads School (Santa Monica), and as a college-undergraduate, she joined the first cohort of the Arete Project.
As a young adult, Vera’s passions of art and dance led her to Italy, where she
spent 5 years studying, and learning by living.
Vera is excited to be offering mentorship in the realms of art, herbalism/apothecary and council at RTS. When she’s not here, you’ll likely find her at the farmers market or teaching yoga at Light and Space.
Ojai Unified School District Independent Study Teachers
Brenda Hill Teacher
Brenda has been teaching in Ojai for 26 years. Over her teaching career she has taught every grade from preschool to Adult Education. Brenda was also a special education teacher for nine years. She is so excited to be part of the new K-5 Summit School homeschool program in partnership with Rock Tree Sky. The opportunities for exploring, creating, strengthening connections, building an inclusive culture, caring for our local and global environment, learning, enjoying life, and interacting with students at Rock Tree Sky seem amazing. Brenda enjoys riding her bike, sewing, taking train trips, reading, exercising with her dogs, teaching and learning, and spending time with her husband, Rowland, and her daughter, Mo.
Paul Harkins Teacher
Paul has worked in a variety of educational settings, from Europe to the USA. His background brings many years of experience working with middle and high school students in a variety of settings.
Paul's current assignment involves managing independent studies students in a non-traditional setting. He enjoys collaborating with teachers and families in order to build personal and appropriate curricula for his students.
When he isn't teaching or meeting with families, he enjoys summers in France, camping, recording guitar music for Spotify, hanging out with animals, and cooking vegan meals.
Natasha Efross Teacher
Natasha began her research into alternative education when she took an unconventional path out of high school and into college and service work. She has been engaged with youth in teaching and mentorship capacities for over fifteen years and is learning every day more about what it means to build meaningful relationships in our community through this role. She is excited to connect with young people and their families to discover how their lives intersect with Ojai Unified School District's core values of creating an inclusive environment, supporting creativity, fostering a regenerative relationship with our environment, all while keeping the student's (and ultimately the community's) well-being at the center of all we do.