FACULTY & STAFF
GABRIELLE SMITH, M.ED.
Kindergarten Lead Teacher
Gabrielle was born and raised in Santa Barbara County and attended San Diego State University where she earned her teaching credential. Prior to joining the Knox School, she had been teaching for 30 years in both San Diego and Riverside Counties in grades 2, 1, Kindergarten, and Transitional Kindergarten.
3/4 Lead Teacher
Grade 1/2 Lead Teacher
I simply love interacting with and being around people. When I started working with clients one on one, training large and small groups of people in physical fitness, it brought out a new passion. A passion for working with others by identifying each individual’s needs and being able to support their learning and growth. I started training kids from the Police Athletic League (PAL) to give them a positive outlet and environment after school. I really enjoyed working with younger children and decided to pursue it further, returning to school for early childhood education.
It’s truly an honor and a privilege to be given the opportunity to work with such bright young children and I take pride in what I do and I want to give each individual my very best. I strive to be an example outside and inside of the classroom, not just by my words but by my actions.
KIMBERLY WAGNER, M.ED., M.A.,
GIFTED EDUCATION CERTIFICATION
Michelle enjoys teaching very much, and she has worked with students throughout her life. She began watching Kindergartners at a daycare center after-school while in high school. Ever since then, she has been working with students and teaching children of all ages and in various school environments, including Montessori, Public and Language Schools. Michelle loves learning and growing each day! She and her family love to travel and hike together.
Grade 5/6 Lead Teacher
M.Ed. Curriculum & Instruction; M.A. Teacher Leadership; Gifted Education Certification
Ms. Wagner has enjoyed the past 26 years teaching middle school in various states across the country, and recently volunteered as an ESL teacher for a year in the Marshall Islands. She is a firm believer in guiding students to develop their higher-order thinking skills and problem-solving techniques, and also assisting them in becoming creative and autonomous learners.
EDIE LANPHAR, M.A.
Grade 7/8 Lead Teacher
Edie Lanphar is a passionate and dedicated educator with a background in psychology and education. Throughout her extensive career, she has focused on improving the lives and educational experiences of all children while acutely aware of the needs of gifted and talented children. Specifically, she has been a teacher from PK through 12th grade, a lecturer at a University, an author, a researcher, a School Principal, and a Director of Curriculum.
In her role of over 10 years as Director of Curriculum, Ms. Lanphar created a K-8 Reggio Emilia (student-centered) program, focusing on social-emotional learning and inquiry-based curriculum. She went on to extend that program to include a full 4-year high school where she helped administer a constructivist and progressive project-based curriculum across the disciplines. She has also presented locally, nationally, and internationally for many years. She has a gifted and talented child of her own so intimately understands what helps them to thrive.
Lower School Teacher
B.A. Environmental Studies
Ms. Janes earned her bachelor's degree in Environmental Studies at the University of California Santa Barbara , where she was also a Division 1 student-athlete in Cross Country and Track & Field. A formative experience for Ms. Janes comes from her time in a selective program for student-athletes who traveled to Japan and spent time teaching English to children and coaching sports for them. Here is where Ms. Janes embraced her inner drive to become a teacher and go into education. While at The Knox School, Ms. Janes has taken the lead on STEAM instruction for our lower school, SEL curriculum, and developing our Artist and Musician of the Month program with our younger students. Ms. Janes also works collaboratively to provide PE instruction to the lower school. Of particular importance to Ms. Janes is the promotion of our social-emotional learning curriculum at Knox, so vital to our kids and their learning. She plays a prominent role in incorporating SEL curricular elements into our lower school classrooms, and her enthusiasm and commitment to SEL is a major asset for Knox.Ms. Janes’ educational philosophy is a strong match for Knox whereby she seeks to create a nurturing and positive environment that allows gifted students the opportunity to grow their skills and abilities inside the classroom, while also providing a space for them to explore and understand their own social and emotional needs. Of paramount importance to Ms. Janes is the cultivation of personal connections with each student so that they are provided with the tools to gain self-confidence to work collaboratively with those around them. For Ms. Janes, the most significant learning happens when connections are authentic and the work inspires students to think creatively.
LIGGY CHIEN, M.A.T.
Advanced Math Instructor
B.A. Mathematical Science; M.A.T. Math Education
Mr. Playford earned his Bachelor of Science in Biology and Chemistry, as well as his English-focused Bachelor of Secondary Education, at the University of Canberra in Australia. Michael has been teaching high school classes at Gungahlin College in a variety of subjects, including Chemistry, Biology and English. Teaching this variety of classes has allowed him to approach education with a strong interdisciplinary focus.
Before teaching, Mr. Playford worked on designing educational programs that linked modern-day astronomy research with the history behind scientifically-significant sites. This has shaped his approach to education to focus on helping learners engage with ideas and skills not just in isolation, but as pieces of a bigger picture that have real world applications. His educational philosophy focuses on letting students feel confident in asking their own questions. By placing students in contexts where they are surrounded by opportunities to explore, they are encouraged to make connections between what they have already learned and the new ideas they are exposed to.
Michael has moved from Australia to Santa Barbara and is excited to meet the students and families of Knox and to mentor the 2022-23 First Lego League team!
Ms. Chien taught mathematics for ten years at New Trier High School near Chicago. She moved to Santa Barbara when her husband joined the faculty of UC Santa Barbara and has taught mathematics at Anacapa School.
Fine and Performing Arts Instructor
Sage Kimball is a compassionate and enthusiastic Singing and Acting Coach. Sage was born in Santa Barbara, but spent most of her teenage and young adult years in Southeast Asia and New York City. She has been training in The Arts for most of her life with the help of various teachers from both the US and Asia. Sage got her BFA(hons) in Musical Theater from Lasalle College of the Arts in Singapore after which she completed the two-year Meisner Acting program at William Esper Studio in New York City. Two years ago, Sage followed through on a dream she’s had for years and started her own private singing coaching business called Singing with Sage; through this business she helps children, teens, and adults become the best singers they can be while maintaining the integrity and uniqueness of their natural voices. In her spare time, Sage also loves writing and recording her own original songs.
Vicki Hays was born and raised on a family farm in rural Eastern Kansas that has been in her ancestry for 132 years. She had the unique privilege of being educated in a one room schoolhouse in the country, but was moved to a school "in town" to attend middle school. Vicki found a love for all things artistic early in life. She found a passion for music and dance that she has carried in her heart throughout her life.
Beyond her training in classical piano and dance, after high school, Vicki began working towards her college education at Wichita State University in Wichita, KS before continuing on to the University of California, Santa Barbara to receive her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. She also received a Bachelor of Arts in piano from Santa Barbara Music Teachers Association. At Antioch, Santa Barbara, Vicki also earned a Masters of Arts in Psychology with an emphasis in music therapy.
ANGELA TANNER, PH.D.
Ph.D. Cognitive Neuroscience
Angela Tanner was born and raised in southern California, attending Montessori in the early years and then Viewpoint School in Calabasas, California from 3rd through 12th grade, graduating with full Honors as Valedictorian. She went on to UCLA to study Psychology and Business, again graduating with College Honors, magna cum laude, and Phi Beta Kappa. Before returning to graduate school, she interned at the Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Laboratory in Honolulu, Hawai'i, conducting behavioral research studying cognition and communication in Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. She returned to UCLA for her doctorate to explore the use of functional brain mapping techniques (specifically functional MRI) to examine the functional and structural topography of the cognitive processes of learning & memory.
The journey that led her to the opening of this school began as a very personal one, born of the frustrations and heartbreak of advocating for her own children. Angela’s experiences have fueled in her an enduring passion for creating an educational environment that honors both the intellectual, academic needs of gifted students, as well as the equally important, and often overlooked, social and emotional needs of this unique population.
Head of School
Ph.D. Classical Art and Archaeology
Karen Johnson was raised in northern Minnesota in a family whose commitment to educational opportunity was unfailing and inspiring. She attended Colgate University where she earned a BA in Classical Studies and then went on to take her MA in Latin from the University of Georgia. Her first teaching jobs were on the East Coast with middle school Latin students; these years were integral in the shaping of her educational philosophy and in identifying her focus on child development and identity for years to come. From there, Karen went to the University of Michigan where she earned her PhD in Classical Art and Archaeology. Her dissertation centered on the material culture of children and childhood, a topic which she approached not only from an archaeological angle, but also from cognitive developmental and anthropological perspectives, resulting in genuinely integrated and interdisciplinary research.
Karen returned to teaching not long afterward—the call of the classroom was too compelling. She spent nine years as the middle and upper school Latin teacher at the Roeper School in Birmingham, MI—the oldest school for gifted students in the nation. In that time, she developed a curriculum that sought to study Latin for language awareness and challenge gifted kids in the larger field of linguistics. For the last five years, Karen was the Upper School Director at the Roeper School, during which time she gained ample experience in independent school administration and governance.
Her passion for gifted education mirrors the philosophy and practice at the Knox School. Years of teaching have confirmed for her how students are most receptive to learning when they are relaxed and feeling safe; social and emotional security is the first and foremost element in the classroom. This is especially important for gifted kids, given their intensities and needs for trust and respect. When this security is in place, the classroom should be full of challenge and playfulness in order for gifted children to flourish. Karen is a committed advocate for gifted education and is proud and delighted to join the Knox School family.
KAREN JOHNSON, PH.D.
Director of Admissions and Advancement
Scotti-Marie Leigh was raised in Southern California. After earning her BS in Physiology, she moved to New York City and began her career building community-based health programs and securing ongoing grant funding for the Arthritis Foundation. She then transitioned to developing and cultivating critical relationships and overseeing marketing and educational programs with clients and physicians in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical marketing field. Following this, she lived in Colorado and Montana and worked to launch a large physician speaker bureau for a new cardiovascular therapeutic, and oversaw the strategic direction, development and training of marketing efforts for the bureau. She also acted as the primary liaison with the nation's top cardiovascular thought leaders.
With two gifted and talented sons, Scotti deeply understands the needs and feelings of this community. She is very excited to work as the Director of Admissions and Advancement and further the mission of The Knox School of Santa Barbara.
Director of Operations
Director of Curriculum & Instruction
Marisa is perfectly situated to take on curriculum at Knox as she has spent over 14 years serving gifted learners and their families. Most recently she was an Advanced Academic Resource Teacher in Fairfax County Public Schools in Northern Virginia, where for five and a half years, she taught a diverse range of advanced learners, mentored and coached teachers in weaving meaningful curriculum into instruction, and worked with families to support their children’s unique learning and social emotional needs. Before moving to Virginia, Marisa taught and developed curriculum at The Ricks Center for Gifted Children at the University of Denver in Colorado (where she worked alongside Dr. Ellen Honeck, our former DCI) and at the Logan School for Creative Learning, another stand-alone gifted school in Colorado. During her five years at Logan, she designed and implemented individual, integrated curriculum based on student abilities and interests as well as a class unit. She is passionate about staying on top of new research and practices in education. She delights in philosophical discussions on gifted education and in implementing best practices. Marisa intimately understands, and is aligned with, the mission of The Knox School and can't wait to dive into supporting the teachers and students of Knox!
KARI VAN BEBBER RAMIREZ, M.S., P.P.S, L.M.F.T.
Marni Cheverez is a fourth generation native of Santa Barbara. She served as the Dance Director at San Marcos High School for 20 years and has worked as a professional choreographer and performance consultant for 30 years. She has choreographed and directed several professional dance productions, including the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, The NFL Pro Bowl halftime, and the New Year's Day celebration in Paris, France.
Marni has spent much of the last decade working with local non profit organizations in development, event management, fundraising, marketing, and social media management.
It is my pleasure and honor to be part of the Knox School family and a program where thinking outside of the box is celebrated! I am committed and dedicated to supporting the continued development of the children and further fostering a positive, engaging, and supportive learning environment. I moved to Santa Barbara from Hillsborough, CA, where, I worked as an elementary school counselor for 9 years. In addition to my 4 years of teaching elementary school, my decade of experience with gifted children as a school counselor solidified in me a deep commitment to the growth of these children. My desire is for children to find joy daily and know each day is a new opportunity for self-discovery. I want them to feel loved, supported, and a sense of belonging and purpose in their daily learning environment, regardless of the academic or social-emotional challenges they might be facing.Kids should be able to just be kids, and they need us to provide them with this opportunity. Education needs to be filled with heart and soul. My mission is always to fill the heart. I aim to support and guide our families, faculty, and staff in the tandem pursuit of inspiring and cherishing our students.