Ventura Charter School has recruited a staff possessing a wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise in progressive, constructivist education. Our teachers are skilled at using project-based, structured cooperative learning strategies, integrated thematic units, multicultural education, and conflict resolution. They enthusiastically collaborate to provide an academically challenging and enriching educational environment for our students.
Lisa Hildebrand, Executive Director
Lisa began her teaching career over 18 years ago and quickly realized that she wanted to work in alternative education. After a 10-year teaching position at Open Classroom in Ventura, she took some time off to stay at home with her baby girl, Kaitlyn and returned to Ventura Charter School five years later. Lisa is passionately committed to helping children find the joy in learning, themselves, and their world. Drawing from her experience teaching K - 5th grades, as well as holding a Masters in Education and an Administrative Credential, Lisa's focus is on creating a safe place for educators, students, and parents to reach their personal potential.
Christi Sandbach, Assistant Director
Christi is thrilled to serve the VCS community as the Assistant Director. As a progressive educator of 22 years, she is passionate about constructivist, project-based education that honors the whole child. Christi is dedicated to creating a learning environment where curiosity guides the course of study, where community is strengthened through a sense of belonging, connection, and mutual respect, and where school leaders, parents, teachers, and students are partners in education, practicing the habits of life-long learning together. During her spare time, Christi enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, reading, and being outdoors: running, hiking, camping, and going to the beach as often as she can.
Hannah Allen, Grades 1-2
Hannah is deeply reflective of the positive influence her teachers from her early childhood education have had on her - who she is and where she finds her joy! She states confidently that her relationships with her teachers have given her access to her best self, and she has found unmatchable joy since re-entering a caring learning community in pursuit of her Teaching Credential at Antioch University, Santa Barbara. Harmoniously paired with two extraordinary teachers from Ventura Charter School, Hannah fulfilled her student teaching experience embraced by the VCS community and is absolutely elated to find herself continuing her career at this remarkable institution. She completed her thesis detailing her passion for student to teacher relationships, the power of belonging, and school connectedness, and is fully committed to fostering and maintaining sincere collaboration with her students. Hannah has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Studio Art from Wheaton College in Massachusetts, a Master’s Degree in Education, and Multiple Subject Teaching, 2-Dimensional Art, and Introductory Art Credentials from Antioch University, Santa Barbara.
Heather is a compassionate educator who creates a positive learning environment where students feel supported. She makes it a priority to get to know her students’ interests and personalities and creates meaningful connections to ensure individual learning and social/emotional needs are being met. Heather received her Master of Education degree and Multiple Subject Teaching Credential at UCSB. She has 17 years of teaching experience in multiple elementary grade levels. Heather loves working alongside and with the passionate and enthusiastic staff and students at VCS. When not teaching, you will find her spending time with her family at the park, the beach, singing in the car, and diving into a good book.
Ellen grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, and received her bachelor's degree in Environmental Science from Wheaton College in Massachusetts. She fell in love with teaching while living in Siem Reap, Cambodia, for two years and believes strongly in fostering a love of learning and curiosity in her students. She taught pre-k for three and half years in Santa Barbara in a preschool school that was influenced by the Reggio Emilia philosophy. She saw firsthand the power of students constructing their own learning and diving into projects. She comes to VCS with a Master's in Education and teaching credential. When not in the classroom, Ellen enjoys going for runs, exploring the trails in Santa Barbara, periodic rock climbing, or getting lost in a book on her couch.
Emily Noel, Grades 3-4
Emily is a 2016 graduate from UCSB, where she received her Credential and Master's in Elementary Education. Emily received her undergraduate degree in both English and Film and Media Studies from Lafayette College in Pennsylvania. Emily caught "the teaching bug" while at Lafayette, where she was a member of the LIME Program (Lafayette Initiative for Malagasy Education), a team of students and professors who traveled to Madagascar to mentor and aid students in their applications to universities in the United States (and elsewhere). Emily felt it was one of the greatest experiences of her life. Emily started working for WISH Charter, a full inclusion school in Los Angeles, as a Paraprofessional and the head teacher for the before and after school program for grades 2-7. Within the first week of working at WISH Charter, she knew teaching was what she wanted to do as a career. Emily believes that every student is unique and beautiful in their own way and that she, as a teacher, needs to support each student while enhancing their critical thinking. Emily works to educate the whole student socially, emotionally, and academically. Emily likes to bring in movement, breathing, and real-world application to her investigative and exploratory lessons. She is very excited to be joining the Ventura Charter Community.
Elyse Martin, Grades 3-4
Elyse grew up in Thousand Oaks, CA. She was inspired to become a teacher after her 8th grade teacher helped her cultivate a love for learning, which she feels changed her life. She earned her B.A. from the University of San Francisco and her teaching credential from CSUN & UCLA. She began her teaching career at Endeavor College Prep in Los Angeles and taught 4th and 5th grade there for two years. She values her time at ECP, which helped her learn strong classroom management strategies and tools. Elyse then decided to take a deep dive into the constructivist approach to education, project-based learning, and collaborative learning models at Citizens of the World Charter School-Mar Vista Campus. She taught 4th and 5th grade there for the last seven years. At CWC, she became a member of the learning leadership team, helping to make key decisions on school policy and culture. She joined the Principal’s Council and was an administrative designee. Elyse is thrilled to teach 3rd and 4th grades at VCS. She firmly believes in educating the whole child--emotionally, socially, artistically, and academically. Elyse strongly feels that students learn best when they feel seen and are filled with joy. When she is not teaching, she likes to go to the beach, hike, cook, and read... but she is mostly chasing after her two little boys.
Allison Krist, Grades 3-4
Allison grew up in Ventura and is glad to be back teaching in her hometown. She went to the University of California, Santa Barbara, for her undergraduate studies and majored in Environmental Studies. After she graduated, Allison began teaching environmental education in local elementary schools. Standing among students who were singing and acting out the life cycle of a steelhead trout, she knew that she wanted to become a teacher. She gained experience as an Instructional Assistant and through working with children with special needs, and eventually went back to school and received her Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and Masters Degree in Education, also from UCSB. She brings to the classroom her desire to form meaningful connections with her students while helping them realize their full potential and become well-rounded, successful students and members of the community.
Susan Melican, Grades 5-6
Susie graduated from UCSB in 2004 with her multiple subject credential and Masters in Education. For nine years she worked as a second, third, and fourth grade teacher at Open Alternative School in Santa Barbara. Before stepping into the classroom, she worked in a variety of outdoor education programs as a garden teacher, environmental educator, and wilderness trip leader. She shares her love for the outdoors with her students and strives to foster meaningful connections between students and the natural world. In the classroom, Susie works to build a strong community of learners where all students feel supported in their academic, social, and emotional growth and celebrated for their unique gifts and talents. She shares her love for the arts with students, integrating visual and performing arts across the curriculum. Susie is excited to work with students, parents, and Ventura Charter School staff to create a vibrant and positive learning environment for all students.
Chris Peña, Grades 5-6
Chris grew up in the small town of Three Rivers, CA, and was surrounded by wonderful teachers who taught him the importance of education. In fifth grade he had the opportunity to experience one of the best teachers he could imagine. This teacher just happened to be his grandmother. Because of this source of inspiration, Chris has always seen the value in working to guide young people toward fulfilling their potential. After high school, Chris went to Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA, and graduated with a degree in Cross-Cultural Sociology. He then went on to work in the Santa Barbara community as a Residential Counselor and Street Outreach Worker at Noah's Anchorage youth crisis shelter. Chris then moved to Colorado, where he continued his career in social work before deciding to follow his dream of becoming a teacher. After receiving a multi-subject teaching license, Chris took a job at Westridge Elementary in Littleton, Colorado, where he moved back and forth between teaching 5th and 6th grades. Chris is excited to be back in California and working as a part of the Ventura Charter community. He brings to the classroom his goal of connecting with each student on an individual level and is committed to relevant and meaningful subject matter, mutual respect, a diverse outlook on education, and a focus on social justice and social/environmental responsibility.
Ivy Brown, Grades 5-6
Ivy moved to Ventura from Boston, where she studied International Business and Italian at Northeastern University. After volunteering in elementary schools in Ventura and Santa Barbara, Ivy fell in love with teaching and decided to pursue a career in the classroom. She went on to earn her Master's in Education and Multiple Subject Certification from the University of California, Santa Barbara. While completing her teaching credential, Ivy was introduced to Ventura Charter School and was fortunate enough to complete her student teaching there. After graduating from UCSB, she knew that Ventura Charter was the place where she wanted to develop as an educator, and was thrilled to become a part of their staff. Ivy strives to create learning environments that engage and welcome all students and values connecting with each of her students as individuals. Outside of the classroom, Ivy can be found cooking, gardening, and spending time with her friends.
Flow Hansmeier, Grades 5-6
I'm thrilled to teach grades 5/6 at VCS. For me, a meaningful education incorporates a community that practices kindness and connection, laughter, hands-on projects, humor, real-life experience, lots of time in the great outdoors, outstanding teachers who love their job and are surrounded by support, trust, freedom, and lots of heartfelt learning. I knew I wanted to teach as a child. I love being around kids of all ages. I grew up in San Diego, attended Santa Clara University in the Bay Area, and earned my teaching credential at Cal State University Channel Islands. For ten years, I was an Outdoor Educator and taught students in a variety of amazing outdoor environments all over the West, ranging from our deserts, forests, mountains, redwoods, streams, creeks, rivers, and my favorite place, the ocean and Emerald Bay, Catalina. I joined the VCS staff in our starting year and have taught a variety of grades at VCS ranging from K, 1st/2nd, 3rd/4th, 7th/8th, and I taught for a year in our homeschool. I'm happy to call Ventura home, where I live and play with my husband, James, and our children, Otto and Iris. Lastly, my real name is Kim. I got the nickname "Flow" while guiding students down the Colorado River in canoes. "Go with the Flow!" It just stuck ;).
Jenny began her journey as an educator at the Santa Barbara Zoo, where she worked with camp groups and handled animals! She has a deep love for all living things. She is a recent graduate of the teacher education program at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she earned a Master's degree in education. She places a strong emphasis on building meaningful relationships with her students while promoting empathy and compassion. She loves to take her dog to the beach, relax with a book, and bake vegan treats. Jenny is profoundly excited to be a part of the VCS community.
Holly Johnson, Grades 7-8
Holly always knew she wanted to teach. She decided early on that she would help make the world a better place by working with children. Her 15 years of experience with children covers a broad spectrum. She has been a nanny, tutor, preschool teacher, teacher’s aide, and K-6 teacher at a special needs school in the San Fernando Valley. Holly attended George Mason and California State Universities. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing with a concentration in Poetry, a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, and a Master of Education. Holly is a firm believer in teaching the whole child. She takes great care in creating a classroom that is supportive of academic, social, and emotional needs. Holly has a passion for all things creative and loves integrating arts into the core curriculum. She strives to nurture compassionate, critically-thinking students while building a classroom of love, laughter, and fun. In addition to teaching, she has a passion for sewing, playing guitar, and photography. She also leads a Girl Scout troop.
Shelly Ballmer, Grades 7-8
Shelly has been with VCS since 2008. She received her BA in Psychology with an emphasis in Child Development from UCSB and her Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from UCSB as well. She has completed additional graduate coursework on how to teach math at the secondary level. She has experience teaching all grade levels from K-8, with the majority of that time spent with middle schoolers. In her 25+ years in education, she has also worked with homeschool families and at-risk teens. Along with the daily joys of teaching young people across all subjects, Shelly has a passion for drama, service learning projects, and project-based learning. As an avid mathematician, Shelly especially enjoys teaching math and strongly believes the whole-child tenet that addresses the need to attend to the emotional state of a math learner is essential for success, especially at the middle school level. Math anxiety and low self-esteem are the death knell for mastery, and Shelly strives to help students reimagine who they are as math learners. Shelly spends her free time with her husband, Chris, and enjoys the beach, hikes, and fun outings. Her three grown children are now off on their own adventures. Seeing them go through high school has helped her shape the middle school program here at VCS so that it is ensured that we are doing all we can to properly prepare our students for 9th grade.
Jessica Murphy, Reading Intervention
Jessica received her Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and Bachelor's Degree in Education with a Minor in Spanish from the University of Southern California (USC). She received a Master's in Educational Leadership at California Lutheran University (CLU) in 2008. She started her career in Oxnard teaching gifted and talented students (GATE) and was a member of their Leadership Committee. With her project-based and constructivist learning approach, she made the easy transition to Ventura Charter School of Arts and Global Education. Outside of teaching, Jessica enjoys traveling. She spent six months in Spain as well as one month in Costa Rica, enhancing her Spanish skills. She developed a love for sports, playing competitive softball for 11 years and tennis throughout high school. Jessica brings her enthusiasm and experience into the classroom as she challenges her students to think critically to construct meaning from their environment.
Liza Scheer, T.O.S.A. (Teacher on Special Assignment)
Liza realized she wanted to pursue teaching as a career as a senior in high school while tutoring a freshman in Algebra. Seeing the light bulb go off in her student's head was all she needed to switch her career goals from engineering to teaching. She obtained her teaching credential from Sam Houston State University in Texas with a major in elementary education and a minor in math. Her 25-plus years of teaching experience is in a wide array of areas, including elementary and middle school, as well as several years in the homeschool community. Liza discovered progressive education while searching for an alternative school for her oldest son and hasn't looked back since. She spent many years with her three children at Conejo Open Alternative School in Thousand Oaks in which she was heavily involved in the classrooms of all three of her children. She also served on the board of their parent organization.
I’m excited to be a part of the VCS village as a school counselor. I believe that every student is a hero in their own journey, and I find great fulfillment in supporting every student in their academic and social emotional growth. Prior to school counseling, I was in the field of behavioral health. I had the opportunity to assist individuals and families from various age groups and backgrounds throughout the county of Ventura. As I spent more time in the field, I yearned to support children in a school setting. I fondly recall the educators that positively impacted my life. I received my Master’s in counseling from California Lutheran University and honed my counseling philosophy in resiliency, unconditional regard, and cultural proficiency. While not serving in my role as school counselor, I enjoy spending time frolicking with my family (Jessica [Wife], Luna [Baby], and Utah [Fur baby]).