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 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, and attends BLM events.
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.
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 member of the Upper Ojai Mountain Search and Rescue Team. He is an amateur astronomer and the father of 4 daughters.
Kelly Campbell "Farmer Kelly"
Director of Educational Gardens
Kelly enjoys connecting children of all ages to the natural world through food, art, and creativity.
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 experiential, nature-based learning with the beautiful Rock Tree Sky community. Kelly holds a Master of Science in Environmental Education.
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.
Peter Cable 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.
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 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 the realms of 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 Mentor
Ella is a singer-songwriter, artist and athlete born and raised in Venice Beach, California.
After a circuitous route of surfing as a young teen to playing NCAA competitive ice hockey to studying Anthropology and Environmental Studies at Lewis & Clark, Ella wrote a senior thesis on Conflict Theory: Unintentional Hierarchies in an Intentional Community.
Later, while living in New Orleans framing houses post Katrina as part of the Americorp program, Ella’s passion for rebuilding and connecting with the community deepened. Having completed a Certification in Permaculture Design while living in the East End of Ojai, Ella’s love for natural building and nature’s rhythms inspired a deep dive into poetry and performing as a musician.
Facilitating art projects and installations, as well as directing theatrical performances and concerts with young students, has paved the way for a lifelong project of spontaneous adventure and investigative creative pursuits.
Ella holds the ferocious spirit of imagination close to the heart and especially values organic sparks that ignite curiosity and authentic encounters played out in song and performance.
Sarah Henyon Pebbles Facilitator
Maka Fouchi Pebbles Facilitator
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 co- Founder of RTS/ 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.