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People of RTS


​Casey Murphy he/him - Mentor


Casey has been working with youth for many years. He has a wealth of life experience that he brings to the table. Before coming to RTS, he was an Emergency Medical Technician, wilderness guide, rock climbing guide, yoga instructor, and taught at conventional schools, as well as extensive international travel. He was born in Los Angeles and raised in the 805 (Ventura County).

Teaching comes instinctively to him through sharing knowledge and viewing the inspiration and excitement that learners bring. He loves being apart of young people's positive development.


His hobbies include spearfishing, exercising, expertise in insects and reptiles, and surrounding himself in nature. 


Ella Gamm she/her - 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.  


Spencer Babcock he/him - 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.

Previously Spence has worked 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, playing at the beach, and stretching his imagining with his son.


Jim Bailey he/him

Executive Director, Co-Founder

Jim has been teaching in the Ojai Valley for 23 years. His work with Rock Tree Sky is informed by his learn-by-doing experience from the science classroom setting as well as years of youth mentorship at the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation.


Jim's current work in learner-centered education focuses on the invention of community based ecosystems of learning and self-directed learning space design.

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 past member of the Upper Ojai Mountain Search and Rescue Team. He is an amateur astronomer and the father of 4 daughters.


Vera Rodriguez she/her - 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 principles.


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 art, herbalism/apothecary and council at RTS. When she’s not here, you’re likely to find her at the farmers market or teaching yoga at Light and Space. 


Ella Hubley they/them - Mentor 


Ella is a singer-songwriter and artist born and raised in Venice Beach, California.


After a circuitous route of surfing as a young teen., playing NCAA ice hockey and studying Anthropology, Ella grew a love for natural building and nature’s rhythms, inspiring a deep dive into poetry and performing as a musician. This was informed by living in New Orleans framing houses post Katrina as part of the Americorp program, and completing a Certification in Permaculture Design.

Facilitating art projects and installations, as well as directing theatrical performances and concerts has paved the way for a lifelong spontaneous adventure and investigative creative pursuits.


Close to Ella's heart is a ferocious spirit and imagination. Ella especially values organic sparks that ignite curiosity and authentic encounters played out in song and performance.


Peter Cable he/him - Mentor


Peter has served as an educator in many environments—from teaching English to employees of multinational corporations in Mexico City, to working with third grade students in the Ojai Unified School District. Through this journey, he has come to believe that the most effective learning communities are ones that allow children the freedom to make independent choices around what they wish to pursue, with whom they wish to pursue it, and what sorts of commitments they want to make in the process. 


His passion for the creative arts is fed every day through supporting learners with engineering challenges, 3D printing, stop-motion animation, film projects, music, and his new favorite offering: laugh circles. 


Peter feels lucky to live in an area of such great beauty and volunteers with the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy maintaining our local hiking trails. 


Holland Eads she/her - Mentor


Holland was born in Ventura, CA and raised in Ojai. She has experience working at a Montessori School in Ojai and at Gratitude Garden Preschool in San Clemente. Holland enjoys working at Rock Tree Sky because she loves how she can witness the immediate results of its philosophy in action and experience how joyful and grateful the learners are.

Holland teaches ceramics and supports learners in the art room. On a daily basis, she can be found inspiring others to bring their creations to life.

She has a strong passion for skateboarding, music, caring for her pets. Skateboarding in Denmark was one of the most exciting times of her life. Holland values her close friends, family, and her bird Firda. Holland comes to RTS everyday with Frida on her shoulder and the kids adore it.


Maka Fouchi she/her - Pebbles Mentor

Maka works with the Pebbles group at RTS. She has experienced working at other schools and has been a nanny in the past. She enjoys working at RTS because her classroom is a garden and she loves the overall energy of what everyone is doing. She also enjoys how peaceful alternative learning is. She believes it cultivates staying connected to imagination. 


Maka was born and raised in New Orleans. Her hobbies include working with small children, medicinal plants, hand poke tattoos, theater, and dancing. She is one of three siblings. 


Freedom of creative expression is what Maka values most because if we don’t have freedom, then, what do we have? She thinks if we can teach our children to be kind, compassionate, creative, and to have good boundaries then the world would be a more loving place.


Sarah Henyon she/her - Pebbles Mentor

Sarah works with the Pebbles as a role model and leader. The freedom that RTS gives learners and the allowance for people to be themselves, is the reason Sarah loves working with the program.


Sarah was born in Venice Beach, Los Angeles and raised in Lake Arrowhead with a creek in the backyard and hundreds of acres of woods. In the past, she worked at Oak Grove School and Rancho La Vista. She had so much freedom as a teenager, making it a joyous time of her life. As a single mom, she has persevered. She has three sisters and many animals and grew up the way she’s trying to live now. 


Sarah has a passion for plants, gardening, and all things that sprout. She loves working with small children. She values freedom and being her authentic self.


Chad he/him - Garden Director 

Chad was born and raised in Northern Michigan in a small town. He traveled to West Africa for the Peace Corps, working with local villages.  Chad started an urban farming non-profit called B’earth, where vacant lots were turned into small farms. They taught those with housing insecurity how to farm, giving them employment. 


He enjoys working at RTS because he loves how it brings out the curiosity in the learners as they follow their passions.


His interests involve food, developing human potential, and saunas. Chad loves food because it creates community, wellness, and art. He has a passion for saunas because after he feels refreshed. He likes witnessing human potential as we move closer to compassion and loving kindness, with integrity and authenticity, the foundation of trust, connection, and growth.

Ojai Unified School District - Summit Independent Study Teachers


Paul Harkins he/him - 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 an un-conventional setting. He enjoys collaborating with teachers and families in order to build personal and appropriate curricula with 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 she/her

RTS Co-Founder / 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.   

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