Lower School

Faculty & Staff

Maisae Affour
Head of Lower School

Maisae has 25 years’ experience as an administrator and teacher in U.S. and international Independent schools including Vision International School in Qatar, Ibn Khuldoon National School in Bahrain, American International School in Pakistan, St. Catherine of Siena School in Reading, Pennsylvania, and Caribbean School in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Maisae is an educator with a passion for early childhood and elementary education. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature and master’s degrees in Translation and Interpretation from the University of Aleppo and in Teaching from Marygrove College in Detroit.


Kristi Peoro
Assistant to the Head of Lower School

Kristi Peoro is the Assistant to the Head of Lower School. Her duties include assisting parents and students, providing clerical support to faculty and the Head of Lower School, maintaining student files, providing first aid and triaging student illnesses, and maintaining records for parent drivers.

She first joined Country Day in 2008 as the Assistant to the Athletic Director and also served as Assistant to the Head of High School. After taking several years off to raise her two daughters, Kristi feels fortunate to serve the Lower School.

Kristi earned a Bachelor of Arts in Behavioral Science from San Jose State University.  Prior to San Jose State University she attended Hawaii Pacific University on a volleyball scholarship where her team won the NCAA Division II National Championships.

Faculty & Staff

Mitzi Mapa-Contes
Director of Pre-Kindergarten

Mitzi Mapa-Contes is the PK Director and Lead Teacher for our Pre-Kindergarten program. She leads the work of early childhood educators in creating an environment that inspires joyful learning while nurturing the social emotional, intellectual and physical growth of our youngest students, establishing positive relationships with our families, and overseeing daily school operations.

Prior to joining Country Day in 2018, Mitzi served as Head of School for one of the AltSchools in San Francisco. Mitzi led a team of educators and collaborated with researchers, technologists, and engineers to design a technology platform to support personalized learning. Her work in a lab school setting led her to curate personalized learning experiences based on student goals, learning styles, strengths and areas of need.

Mitzi earned her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education in her home country, the Philippines. She then continued her teacher training in the International Baccalaureate – Primary Years Programme, with a focus on teaching using an inquiry based approach and an emphasis on interdisciplinary and conceptual learning. She has worked in several international schools overseas, first as a classroom teacher and eventually transitioning to leadership. Mitzi also is trained in Reggio Emilia practices. She has led several schools and day care centers in developing Early Childhood Programs inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach and rooted in and IB-PYP standards and practices.

She also spends her time volunteering with Children’s International Summer Villages, an organization that runs international camps and community events. As programme director, Mitzi has travelled to over 20 countries to lead children and youth camps that promote diversity, human rights, conflict resolution and sustainable development within communities. 

When not busy in school, Mitzi enjoys traveling the world, drumming on her djembes, dumbeks and cajons, dancing, and dabbling in street photography.

Faculty & Staff

Stephanie Castillo

Stephanie Castillo is a part of our pre-kindergarten team at Sacramento Country Day School.  Before joining the pre-K team at Country Day School, she worked as an early childhood specialist and interventionist to support children of all abilities into a fully inclusive preschool program within the Sacramento City Unified School District. As a part of her work in the classroom, she gave technical assistance to other early childhood programs in the state of California in developing their own inclusive programs and practices as a consultant with the Sacramento County Office of Education in their SEEDS program (Supporting Early Childhood Delivery Systems).  During her 12 years as a teacher there, she was the recipient of the SCUSD Above and Beyond Award as well as Supported Life Inclusion Award for her dedication, vision and belief in inclusive communities.  

She earned her Master of Education and Early Childhood Specialist Teaching Credential at California State University, Sacramento and her Bachelor of Arts in Law and Society with a Criminal Justice emphasis from University of California, Santa Barbara.  While in Santa Barbara she was the Co-President of the UCSB CAB (Community Affairs Board) where she helped to plan, support and promote volunteerism within the school and surrounding community. 

Stephanie grew up in Stockton, California but has lived in Sacramento for over 20 years and considers this her home.  When not creating magic with our youngest students, she can be found taking her daughter, who is a Country Day student, to her after school activity du jour, going on a ‘real quick run’ around the park, doting over her cat(s), or scrapbooking memories into the wee hours of the night. 

Faculty & Staff

Ashlie Kirby
Pre-Kindergarten Music & Movement
Middle School Dance Electives
After-School Enrichment

Ashlie Kirby is a Bessie Award-winning Dancer and Dance Educator. She currently teaches the Dance Elective and Yoga Elective in the middle school, as well as Music and Movement in pre-kindergarten. Prior to joining the faculty, Ashlie spent a decade teaching dance at independent schools on the East and West coasts, including Bentley School, The Brearley School, and Pierrepont School. Ashlie also is a Teaching Artist for the Mondavi Center at UC Davis.

Ashlie holds a BFA in Dance from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a Master’s in Dance Education from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Ashlie also holds teaching credentials in New York (Dance) and California (Physical Education). Prior to returning to her native California, Ashlie spent nine years dancing professionally in New York City in a number of modern dance companies, most notably Jessica Gaynor Dance and Pam Tanowitz Dance. In 2010, she was awarded a Bessie, or New York Dance and Performance Award, for her performance in Pam Tanowitz’s Be in the Grey with Me

Ashlie has served on the board of the California Dance Education Alliance and is passionate about dance education for every child. She first started her study of Dance Education at the 92nd Street Y’s Dance Education Laboratory, where she fell in love with teaching dance to children. She believes that everyBODY is a dancer and that movement and dance are fundamental ways that humans express themselves and connect to their communities. When she is not at Country Day, Ashlie can be found at home with her two young daughters and husband, engaged in messy art projects and living room dance parties. 

“The truest expression of a people is in its dance and in its music. Bodies never lie.” ― Agnes De Mille

Faculty & Staff

Mary (May) Mercury
Pre-Kindergarten Assistant

May Mercury is a Pre-K Teaching Assistant at Country Day. They have worked at several preschools in the Sacramento area since graduating from Portland State University with a Bachelors in Child, Youth and Family Studies and a minor in Sociology.

In their free time, they love both performing in and watching musical theater, playing with their dog and learning new things!

Faculty & Staff

Sydnee Butcher
Pre-Kindergarten Assistant

Sydnee Butcher is part of our pre-kindergarten team and has been working for our school since 2016. Throughout her time at Country Day, she has been an assistant teacher for kindergarten and first grade, an ASE counselor, and a summer camp counselor.

She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Child Development at California State University, Sacramento, and is currently earning her Masters in School Counseling at California State University, Sacramento (#STINGERSUP). One of her favorite college experiences was the field work she gained in her undergrad within the Elk Grove School District and the opportunity to create an after school program for Middle School students about early on college prep. 

When she’s not deeply engaged within the Pre-K classroom, Sydnee enjoys trying new foods, baking, hiking, and spending time with her family and friends.

Faculty & Staff

Richele Cooley
Kindergarten Teacher

Richele Cooley is a Kindergarten teacher at Country Day. Richele previously worked in the Merryhill schools where she taught Kindergarten for nine years and taught 1st grade for one year. Her greatest accomplishment was being nominated for Teacher of the Year in 2014.

Richele graduated from Sacramento State with a BA in Liberal Studies and has been in the field of education since 1997. Originally from the Bay Area, she and her husband, Jason, have two rambunctious boys, ages 9 and 3.

In her free time, she loves taking her boys swimming or to the beach. Richele believes every child deserves the opportunity to achieve his or her highest potential. Kindergarten is a time to spark and direct the curiosity and natural love of learning. Kindergarten has become her passion and she cannot wait to take this journey with you. 

Faculty & Staff

Sue Goodwin Lorens

Sue Lorens currently serves as Kindergarten teacher at Country Day. She joined the the Lower School in 1998 and before moving to Kindergarten, Sue taught a year and a half of third grade, 13 years of first grade and two years of second grade.

Sue is fascinated by the education process and admires the innate curiosity and love of learning that young children bring.  It keeps her “feeling young” and excited about school each day! She also loves partnering with parents in addressing their concerns about behaviors, friendships and learning. She believes that we are raising a whole person, not just a student, so that developing good character is as important as the content we are teaching. 

Sue left a career in Vocational Rehabilitation in 1998 and began at Country Day as an Instructional Aide as she returned to school to obtain her Elementary Education teaching credential with CLAD (Cross-cultural Language & Academic Development) certification through a U.C. Davis/C.S.U.S. collaborative program.  Sue’s undergraduate degree is in Psychology with a minor in Business Administration from Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois. Before teaching, she worked with Workers’ Compensation clients who were seeking new employment as a result of injury. She has additional experience in publishing, advertising and college admissions work.  Sue has also served on a Presbyterian Church staff as Director of Christian Education in a part-time capacity for 10 years. 

One of Sue’s “claims to fame” at Country Day is her love of verse and rhymes.  “Carpool Karaoke” is one of her favorite times. She also has a list of “great hit songs” grown from times of tension –“Be a Problem-Solver” and “Listening” are certainly worth a mention. Perhaps someday, she’ll be on stage and screen, but for the moment, Kindergarten is where she’ll be seen!

Faculty & Staff

April Sanders

April Sanders is one of the Kindergarten teachers at Country Day. She has been in the field of education since 1992 in many different roles but has found her true passion teaching Kindergarten. Her goal as a Kindergarten teacher is to nurture every child; mind, body and heart and instill a love for learning that will carry through their lives. As a lifelong learner herself, she shares her successes and failures with her students in an effort to encourage them to be confident and motivated to learn and grow.

April earned a B.A. in Early Childhood Development with a concentration in Education and a M.A. in Best Practices in Education at National University.  Having gone back to school later in life to complete her degree, she feels she was able to apply herself more diligently to her studies and use her previous experiences in education to build upon her knowledge. 

Family is of the utmost importance to April and she spends most of her free time with her husband, three children, and grandson. Even though her children are all adults now, they still find time to get together to share a meal, go on camping trips together or just hang out on the front porch, catching up.

On a personal note, April loves to be outdoors and will find any excuse to be outside – whether it’s going on a hike, taking the kayak out, or just relaxing out back in her hammock listening to the birds sing.  Her favorite subject is science and she loves to share the wonder of our natural world with her students. 

“Kindergartners are the picture of curiosity and wonder and I find I whole-heartedly relate to them in this way when it comes to the joy of discovery,” says April.

Faculty & Staff

Carly Bornmann
The Glass Knife Advisor
Kindergarten Assistant

Carly Bornmann is a Film, Writing, and Yoga Teacher. She received a BFA in Filmmaking with concentrations in Writing and Production Design from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Carly also holds her 200hr Registered Yoga Teacher Certification and 32hr Yoga Education Certification. Carly has spent the last two years teaching in Lynnwood, Washington at an International Baccalaureate School. She is excited to now be in Sacramento and join the Country Day team to begin working with the students on The Glass Knife. Carly also will assist one of our Kindergarten classes for 2020-21.

Faculty & Staff

Amanda Leidolph
Kindergarten Assistant

Amanda Leidolph holds the position of assistant for Sue Lorens’ wonderfully rambunctious Kindergarten class.  During her days in the classroom, Amanda loves handing out warm fuzzies for acts that fill her bucket, and she appreciates being reminded that not everything adults do has come about easily.  She gets to enliven her life and be energized by the excitement of the children, clean up after said excitement, and then promptly goes home to collapse on the couch with her cat, Harper.

Amanda is a deliberator of all things, and spent her first several college years changing majors and earning Associate’s degrees at American River College.  That is, until she took an introductory psychology class and realized that she actually may be able to figure out what the heck is going on. Clinging to that hope, Amanda moved on to get her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, magna cum laude at California State University, Sacramento. Shortly after, she began volunteering at the Sacramento Crisis Nursery where she remained for eight years.

On the weekends, Amanda loves to cook and bake, mostly because she loves to eat.  Since high school, Amanda has worked in a restaurant where her love of food and a satisfaction of waiting on people (seriously!) brought this shy and awkward couch surfer some much needed social skills.

When Amanda isn’t trying to catch up on the wondrous glory that is sleep, or baking and cooking, she likes to plan adventures, host game nights, and shop for things she’ll never buy.

She is an INFJ, a Type 2, a Capricorn, her favorite doctor is Tennant, and she would probably be sorted into Hufflepuff.

Faculty & Staff

Maura Ryan (‘02) Perotti
First Grade

Maura Ryan Perotti (‘02) is a First Grade teacher and the Responsive Classroom Lead for the Lower School. After earning her “Lifer” status with 14 years as a student at Country Day, Maura went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a focus on Developmental Psychology from Santa Clara University. Maura continued at Santa Clara for her Master’s degree in Education. She holds two separate teaching credentials, a Multiple-Subject Teaching Credential and a Single Subject Credential in English. Maura is also certified in the teaching of Gifted and Talented Education (GATE).

After leaving school, Maura taught in the heart of the Silicon Valley for 10 years at another independent school. There Maura led the Character Education Committee and sat on the Student Study team for eight years.

In the classroom, Maura’s greatest love is bringing high-level concepts to a primary level and the teaching of early literacy. Teaching children to read in a community of committed, thoughtful learners is her greatest joy in the classroom. Her experience in teaching reading helps her to foster in her students an excellent foundation in decoding, word knowledge, and reading comprehension. She is passionate about her work with the Student Success Team, the Lower School Literacy Committee and IDEA.

Outside of 1st grade at Country Day, Maura is the Lower School Lead for Responsive Classroom, a program that has been adopted throughout the Lower School. Responsive Classroom is a student-centered, social and emotional learning approach to teaching and designed to create safe, joyful, and engaging classrooms.

In her life outside of school, Maura is highly involved in the world of artistic gymnastics. After competing as a gymnast herself for 11 years, Maura began her career as a member of the National Association of Women’s Gymnastics Judges. She has served as a judge since 2002, judging at competitions around the United States at the State, regional, and national level.

Faculty & Staff

Sarah Gerber
First Grade

Sarah Gerber has been one of Country Day’s first grade teachers since 2017.  She is deeply committed to nurturing a learning community of kindness, inclusion, and respect, and fostering a lifelong love of learning in her students. 

Before coming to Country Day, Sarah was a full time mom to her daughter for a year. She is thrilled to have her daughter here at Country Day as a student now. Before that, Sarah taught second and fourth grades at St. Paul’s Episcoal School in Oakland, and Kindergarten, 2nd, and 3rd grades at the Brandeis School in San Francisco. Prior to teaching elementary school, Sarah met her husband when they were both teaching at Head Start preschools in Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

Sarah earned a B.A. in Sociology, and another B.A. in English and World Literature from Pitzer College, one of the Claremont Colleges in Southern California. She minored in Spanish and had an amazing experience living with a host family in Sevilla, Spain, for a semester, while attending the Universidad de Sevilla’s Language and Society program. Sarah earned her elementary teaching credential through Cal State Monterey Bay. 

Sarah’s current favorite things to do are playing board games with family and friends, listening to and singing along with musicals and Beatles songs, and going on family hikes.

Faculty & Staff

Christina (Stainbrook) Emerson
First Grade Assistant
ASE Counselor

B.S. in Animal Science, Cal Poly San Luis Opispo

Christina (Stainbrook) Emerson is an alumna of Country Day’s Class of 2006. She serves as a first grade teaching assistant and ASE counselor. She received her Bachelor of Science in Animal Science from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and served as an Animal Services Officer in Clovis, CA for a rewarding seven years. During that time she rescued animals, worked with behavioral modification, animal medical needs, and matching pets with adopters, but found that she connected most with educating others in the community. She is currently working toward her Masters in Education, and teaching credential, which she is scheduled to complete in 2020.

Faculty & Staff

Alexis Covey (‘02)
Second Grade

Alexis Covey (‘02) has been teaching 2nd grade at Sacramento Country Day School since the fall of 2012. Before coming to Country Day as a teacher, she attended as a student in high school. Her many fond memories of the school and the incredible people here made her jump at the chance to be a part of this community again. 

After high school, Alexis earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Skidmore College in upstate New York. After graduation she stayed on the East coast for a while, working with small children on fine- and gross-motor skills as a pre-gymnastics teacher. After a few years it was time to return to California to earn a multi-subject teaching credential from Sacramento State University. Her first job after earning her credential was as a long-term substitute teacher in the Twin Rivers District. Her second job was at Country Day, and she hasn’t looked back since.

A couple of quotes that sum up Alexis’s philosophy toward life and teaching are:

  • “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” -Samuel Beckett
  • “I get up. I walk. I fall down. Meanwhile, I keep dancing.” -Daniel Hillel

Outside of work Alexis enjoys working out, knitting, reading, and teaching self-defense to young children.

Faculty & Staff

Brittany Torretta
Second Grade

B.A., California State University, Chico; M.A., University of Phoenix

The 2020-21 school year will be Brittany’s first year teaching second grade, but her fourth year at Country Day. Brittany joined the Country Day community in 2017 as a Pre-K teacher. In December 2019, Brittany took over teaching Kindergarten for Sue Lorens while she was on medical leave. Before joining Country Day, Brittany earned her Master of Early Childhood Education at the University of Phoenix and her Bachelor of Arts in Child Development at California State University, Chico. While at Chico she spent time working in their Associated Students Child Development Lab where they practiced intentional teaching, supporting children’s development of critical thinking skills, and enabling them to be lifelong learners. She also volunteered her time in the Helping Hands outreach, working one-on-one with children who had learning challenges, as a positive role model helping the students with self-esteem and being comfortable in a classroom setting. When not busy in school, Brittany enjoys traveling around the world, spending time with her family and friends, hiking, and cooking/baking up her next creative concoction.

Faculty & Staff

Jocelyn Kemp
Second Grade Assistant

Jocelyn Kemp is a Second Grade Assistant with Country Day, although she has worked with all grade levels in ASE.

Jocelyn graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2019 with a BS in Human Development and Family Studies and a minor in Addiction Treatment Services.

Jocelyn is so excited for this school year and islooking forward to being active in the Country Day community! 

Faculty & Staff

Lateeka Bradford
Third Grade

B.S. in Psychology; Master’s in Elementary Education, Liberty University

LaTeeka Bradford is on our third grade team at Sacramento Country Day School. She is responsible for teaching, developing curriculum, utilizing instructional technology, and creating a safe, inclusive classroom environment.

LaTeeka holds a multiple subjects teaching credential in the state of California. She has over five years of experience teaching grades K-5, both within the classroom and after-school setting. She obtained a Master of Arts in Teaching with a concentration in Elementary Education and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology cum laude from Liberty University located in Lynchburg, Virginia. 

LaTeeka has recently relocated to Sacramento with her husband and two children. 

Aside from teaching she enjoys: spending time with family and friends, watching romantic comedies, vacationing to the beach, gardening, and attending sporting events. 

Faculty & Staff

Kristi Mathisen
Third Grade

Kristi Mathisen teaches third grade in our Lower School but has been a fixture in many different classrooms across all grade levels in her tenure at Country Day. Kristi also has served as an assistant director in the MS/HS theater department and as a faculty adviser to the HS LGBTQ and ChicanX/LatinX Clubs.

In her classroom, Kristi prides herself on creating an inclusive, equitable, and nurturing environment where each student is encouraged to stretch their learning and make mistakes. Intertwining her love of literature and history in the curriculum, Kristi has worked in all of her classrooms to create experiential learning activities that provide students the chance to fully immerse themselves into the worlds they study. From the annual “Gingerbread Baby Hunt” in Kindergarten to the Aviary Vet Clinic imaginative play center in 1st, to the Colonial Trades Play that she co-writes and directs with her students each year in 3rd grade, Kristi is always looking for any chance for her students to “live and breathe” the curriculum.

Kristi received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Theater from the California State University of Northridge. She also holds a Masters of Education in Language and Literacy from California State University Sacramento and a certificate of Women in Business Leadership from Cornell College.

In her personal time, Kristi enjoys spending time with her large extended Mexican family, reading anything she can, and working on social justice initiatives. She is also an avid patron of the arts and currently serves on the board of Sacramento’s Capital Stage Theater Company. When not in Sacramento, you can probably find Kristi and her husband visiting their two daughters (Country Day grads) at college in Boston and Rhode Island- or watching a Broadway play!

Faculty & Staff

Amanda Ashdown
Fourth Grade

Amanda Ashdown is a 4th grade teacher at Sacramento Country Day School. She has taught 4th grade most of her teaching career, taught 1st and 2nd grades, and has worked as a reading support teacher. 

Amanda received her Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from Baptist Bible College, and a teaching credential from the State of Missouri for grades 1-6. She has completed additional training from Schools Attuned to All Kinds of Minds, Responsive Classroom, and The Neuhaus Education Center.  

When not at school, Amanda loves to spend time running, reading, and watching tv (shhh!). Now as a working mom, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters, who are currently attending Country Day.

Faculty & Staff

Pamela Livesey
Fourth Grade

Pamela Livesey is a 4th grade teacher responsible for teaching all subjects and helping creating a cross curricular program. Upon joining Sacramento Country Day School in 2002, she was the 4th grade math and science lead teacher. She has been a part of two Country Day accreditations, the Head of School search committee, the Strategic Planning team, and is currently a member of the Teaching and Learning Committee. 

Pam earned a Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of Georgia. Her favorite times in college were attending UGA football games every Saturday, going to see live music, and making visits to nearby elementary schools to volunteer and attend classes. After graduation, she began teaching Kindergarten at Jefferson Elementary in Jefferson, Georgia.

Once she and her husband Ryan were married, they moved to Sacramento where Pam began working at Freeport Elementary teaching Kindergarten and then 4th grade at Sacramento Country Day. Ryan and Pam have three children all of whom attend Country Day.

Faculty & Staff

Cameron Bohn
Fifth Grade

Cameron Bohn is Country Day’s 5th Grade Humanities Teacher. She covers our Language Arts and Social Studies curriculum in preparation for the students’ transition into middle school. She joined Country Day in 2015.

Cameron earned a Bachelor of Science in Anthropology from the University of Colorado in Boulder, a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary Education from Montana State University, and an Upper Elementary Certificate from the Montessori Education Center of the Rockies. In addition, she currently holds a valid teaching credential in the states of Montana and California. 

After college in Colorado, Cameron joined a group from Stanford University to explore and further excavate an Archaeological site in Peru known as Chavin de Huantar. Upon completion of her time in Peru, she returned to the United States and moved to Montana to further cultivate her love for hiking, camping, and fly fishing. While in Montana she discovered her true passion for teaching, and begin working several jobs in order to fund her second degree, this one in Elementary Education. After teaching for several years in Montana, Cameron moved to California to be closer to her family, and fell in love with Country Day.

Cameron’s passions other than teaching include photography, time hiking with her dogs and camping outdoors, viticulture, visiting local wineries and distilleries, and creating or viewing art.

Faculty & Staff

John Yu
Fifth Grade

John Yu is the 5th Grade Science and Math Teacher at Country Day. He takes pride in making sure that his students develop critical thinking skills and gain authentic experiences from their learning. As a result, his vision for his students is that they develop the necessary insight to be responsible citizens in both the physical and digital worlds.

Before coming to Country Day, John grew up in southeastern Pennsylvania. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Education from University of Delaware and a Master of Business Administration from West Chester University.

John continues to learn things whenever he can and enjoys activities during his free time, such as playing video games and practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Faculty & Staff

Kelly Bornmann
Middle School Science
Lower School Science Coordinator

Kelly Bornmann

Kelly Bornmann serves as Country Day’s 6th Grade Science teacher, 6th Grade Human Sexuality Educator, and Lower School Science Coordinator for grades PreK-1. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to work in both divisions helping students explore and understand the world around them. 

Over the course of her career, Kelly has had the pleasure of teaching science at almost grade level,  teaching 6th grade history, teaching Music Together, running her own school, being head of the Princeton Lab School in Princeton, NJ, working for the Nature Conservancy, and the best job of all, raising her two children. Prior to joining the faculty at Country Day, Kelly most recently served as the Lower School Science Coordinator for the Collegiate School for Boys in New York City. There she served as the science teacher for grades K, 2, 3, and 4, and oversaw curriculum development, teacher training, and special events such as the Invention Convention and Family Science. In addition, she worked closely with the head of the science department planning the K-12 science curriculum and developing interdisciplinary/interdivisional units of study. 

Kelly believes that to be a good teacher, you must always be a student. She is passionate about developing her own craft and supporting others in doing the same. To foster her own learning, she has been the recipient of many grants that have allowed her to collaborate with educators and science professionals around the globe which has helped her deepen her understanding of the art of teaching and keep her science skills sharp by spending time in the field. Kelly also belongs to several state, national and international teaching organizations, and regularly attends and presents on topics such as early-childhood music education, STEM education, and technology in the classroom. In addition to her job at Country Day, she serves as a Lower School human sexuality consultant for Dr. Debbie Roffman and the Park School in Baltimore, MD; an educational manuscript reviewer for the International Society for Technology Educators; and as a beta-tester and educational consultant for organizations such as The Lawrence Hall of Science, Google, Nearpod, and BioDive. 

Kelly credits her love of science and nature to growing up in the Pine Barrens of NJ, her parent’s patience with with her never-ending questions, and two amazing science teachers – Mr. Albert Morrison (8th grade science) and Mr. Stanley Stankewicz (Bio and AP Bio) – who opened up the world of science beyond the woods and never questioned a girls’ passion for science.  Convinced she would be a marine ecologist, Kelly graduated with honors from Douglas College, Rutgers University with a degree in Biological Sciences. She spent much of her college career working in the field at the Rutgers Marine Field station, volunteering for the NY Aquarium in Coney Island, acting as a naturalist for the NJ Marine Science Consortium. While she adored the field work, the many solitary hours of crunching and analyzing data were not for her.  Out of college, she took a job with the Nature Conservancy in New York City as an administrative assistant where she had the opportunity to help develop the local educational outreach program. The interactions with the students were the best part of her job and she began to see education as the career for her. The opportunity to teach high school chemistry and general science presented itself the next year and the rest is history – Kelly has not left the classroom since.

Kelly received her NJ teaching credentials in Biological Science, General Science, and Elementary Education through the NJ Alternate Route Program at The College of New Jersey; her Level 1, 2 and Associate Teacher Trainer Certifications from the Center for Music and Young Children in Princeton, NJ; Mindful Educator Training from the Mindful Schools in San Francisco;  and most recently her  Biological Science Single and Elementary Multi-Subject Teaching Credentials from the State of California. She owes a debt of profound gratitude to the three women who helped shape her into the teacher she is today: Ms. Ruth Drake, Dr. Sami Kahn, and Dr. Lili Levinowitz. 

Kelly believes that ’the cure for anything is salt water - sweat, tears, or the sea’ (Isak Dinesen), so outside the classroom she loves spending time with her family, on her bike, doing yoga, traveling, and figuring out ways to spend more time near the ocean! 

Faculty & Staff

Maria Hoyos
Lower School Music
Grades 5-12 Orchestra, Chamber Music, Choir

Maria Berenice Hoyos is the 5th grade orchestra and  High School chamber music teacher at Country Day. She also works with the Napa Valley Language Academy teaching cello, with Oasis Music Inc providing cello, violin lessons  and live performances, and collaborates with local churches and organizations preparing different performances and musical events.

She plays the cello at Camellia Symphony Orchestra and the Symphony Napa Valley. Her professional experience spans more than 30 years of both teaching and performing during which she established a reputation as an outstanding performer and successful teacher.

She is a member of several associations, including, but not limited to, the Federation of Professional Musicians, the Suzuki Association of the Americas, the California Music Teachers Associations and the American String Teachers Association. 

Maria earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in cello performance and she completed several courses of Suzuki teacher training at Stanford University in California, in Texas and Utah. She participated in Summer chamber and orchestra studies at San Francisco Conservatory and Nevada University in Las Vegas.

Faculty & Staff

Julie Shanks
Lower School Arts

Julie Shanks teaches fine art to Country Day’s Lower School students in Pre-Kindergarten through 5th grade.  Her studio curriculum encompasses art from all genres, cultures, and media.  Using each grade level curriculum as a launching pad, Julie strives to make connections for students from art to academics.  Deeper yet, she yearns to reach into the heart of each student to appreciate art as a tool of expression for their emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

Julie earned an A.A. in Art from Moorpark College in Southern California, a B.A. in art and a single subject teaching credential from California State University Sacramento.  Before teaching at Country Day she taught pre-school and serves as a teacher’s aide in a high school RSP class.

In her personal time, Julie is a member of the Diamond Springs Art Association and enjoys creating art that reflects and shares her faith and its impact on her personal life.  She has written several art curriculums for Vacation Bible School, and enjoys giving art avenues to others in a variety of ways.

Sue Ryan
Lower School Librarian

B.A., Cardinal Stritch College; M.S., California State University, Fullerton

Faculty & Staff

Elena Rodriguez Bennett
Lower School Music

Elena Rodriguez Bennett teaches Lower School music for K-4th grades. Her curriculum is an integration of the arts—from singing to dancing to instruments to the spoken word—based on peace and social justice studies. The goal is to not only raise better musicians, but better people through music.

She has taught various levels of classroom and musical education in Philadelphia, New Haven, the Navajo Nation, Taiwan, and California. She earned a B.A. in English and American Literature from Cornell University, an M. Divinity from Yale University, and an M.Ed. from California State University, Sacramento. 

Elena previously taught music at St. Michael’s Day School and adult education for the Elk Grove school district, which included teaching at the Sacramento Main Jail. She has directed the music program at Florin United Methodist Church since 1988, has taught private violin lessons for decades, and plays in community ensembles.  

All four of her children attended Country Day. Her main lifelong passions include hiking, photography, and traveling/working in other countries. She currently coordinates Country Day’s service learning partnership with a consortium of eight Rwandan schools, which takes her to Rwanda for a joyous month each summer.

Faculty & Staff

Michelle Myers
Director of Physical Education, PK-12th grade

Michelle Myers serves as Country Day’s Director of Physical Education for PK-12th grades. She is also a physical education teacher to Lower School and High School students, as well as oversees the Independent P.E. programs for 5th through 12th grades. 

Michelle started her schooling at the University of Hawaii, then transferred to California State University, Sacramento where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education/Athletic Training (subsumption in biology), and became a P.E. Movement Education Specialist.

Michelle was then accepted into the credentialing program at CSUS, to finish her teaching degree. After that, Michelle completed course work  for a Master’s in Education from Saint Marys’ college in Moraga.

While Michelle’s path had two directions- teaching and coaching, she also became a consultant for many CAIS schools on how to develop a “Developmentally Appropriate Physical Education Program”.

While in college, Michelle also found a fondness for volleyball under the tutelage of the infamous Debby Colberg and Weidi Zhang. She then went on to coach girl’s volleyball at Country Day, American River College, and Consumes College. 

Trying to encourage the boys, Michelle started the first boys’ volleyball team at Country Day, formed a Junior Olympic Boy’s club, worked as a summer coach at Stanford Boy’s Camps, coached at Rio Americano, and finally became the Men’s Volleyball coach for both JV, and eventually Varsity, at California State University, Sacramento. 

Michelle received the Francie Tidey award in 2015 from former Country Day alumni in honor of her dedication to excellence in teaching. “It was the most humbling experience and honor, I’ve ever had!” she says.

Michelle’s hobbies include playing polo and enjoying her horses, her running club SACFIT , owned by Alum Ken Press, cooking for friends, and most importantly staying connected to former students via Facebook- that’s about 1,000 students!


Denise Santos
Lower School Physical Education

Denise Santos serves as one of the Country Day’s Lower School Physical Education Teachers. She is responsible for providing Kindergarten through 5th grade students developmentally appropriate physical education.

Denise earned her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from Sacramento State University. She worked in the campus reaction center, The WELL, and at the Student Union all through her college career. Her position as the Group Fitness Supervisor included coordinating group fitness classes, organizing special events, and becoming a liaison to personal trainers. As a Building Supervisor, in the Union, she oversaw, managed, and enforced building policies to the student community.  

Denise did her student teaching in Natomas and Antelope. She was able to experience all grade levels, but more felt drawn to the younger students because of the “constant energy” they provided.

During her off time, Denise enjoys going to her CrossFit classes in East Sac. She and her partner, are also proud parents of two adorable cats, Maui and Abby. As a native of Monterey, CA, Denise takes day trips to the beach to remind her of home.

Faculty & Staff

Ines Ochoa
World Language, Lower School Spanish

Inés Ochoa is the Lower School Spanish teacher at Country Day.  She is responsible for teaching the Spanish language and culture for grades K-5.  

Inés spent her early childhood years living in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  At the age of 10, what was initially supposed to be a sabbatical year brought the family to California, where her father was a biochemist and researcher at the University of California, Davis.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from UC Davis, and her Multiple Subject Credential from Chapman University.  Some of her favorite areas of study while completing her undergraduate degree included Native American studies, Art, and Sociology classes.  

Inés’ current hobbies include horseback riding, hiking and paddle boarding in Lake Tahoe, cooking, and decorating homes for friends and family.