logoGerman-American International School German-American International School, Deutscher Kindergarten und Deutsche Schule, San Francisco, Bay Area

Team Elementary School

At GAIS, all teachers are credentialed and qualified to teach the International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme.

Sally Thorogood 120x160
Sally Thorogood
Elementary School Principal

I was born in England, near London, and studied, lived and worked in several different parts of the country before moving to Munich in 1997 for my husband’s job with BMW. I have been an elementary school educator for more than two decades and have taught children from kindergarten through fifth grade, initially in the English state school system and since 1998 in Munich International School (MIS).

My connection to MIS began with my children joining the school but, as a qualified teacher, I was soon asked to substitute and my MIS career developed from there. After several years of teaching I moved into the role of PYP coordinator and for the last 7 years have been the Assistant Principal. During this time I completed the Certificate of International School Leadership and also trained as a School Visitor for the International Baccalaureate Organisation, leading school authorization and evaluation visits in a variety of international schools since 2006. I am currently in the final stages of completing my Masters in Education through Bath University in England.

My son (James) has graduated from university and has returned to Munich to work and my daughter (Jenni) will stay in Europe after she completes her university studies this summer, so my husband (Mark) and I are the ones ‘leaving the nest’ and looking forward to new opportunities, challenges and experiences in California.

When I am not working I enjoy singing, reading, playing tennis, skiing and walking in the mountains.

 

 Monika HogeMonika Hoge
PYP Coordinator, Special Support Coordinator

I was born in Alameda, grew up in Truckee and graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary and Special Education. During my first 3 years of teaching, I earned a Master of Arts Degree in Curriculum and Instruction. I have over 20 years teaching experience as a classroom teacher of grades 1-5. My teaching career began in public schools in Reno but took an international turn with a Fulbright grant to teach in Dumbarton, Scotland.

In 2000, I moved to Amman, Jordan to become the English Programme Coordinator for Amman Baccalaureate School (Bilingual school). I then moved to the International School of Tanganyika (IB World School) as Head of Department for ESL/Special Needs. My next step was Munich International School (IB World School), as a grade 5, ESL, and most recently Middle School Math and English teacher.

Since 2009 I have been working with the IB as a workshop leader, leading teacher training workshops throughout Europe, Africa and the Middle East. I have attended meetings at the Hague, contributing to some of the more recent curriculum documentation connected to the PYP. I am excited about my return to the Bay Area with an international twist at GAIS. I am an avid skier and enjoy just about anything outdoors including SCUBA, adventure and travel.

 

Our Kindergarten/Vorschule Teachers and Assistants:

Birgit Schweingruber

Birgit Schweingruber
Kindergarten Teacher

I am from Bremen, Germany and have lived in Switzerland and the US. I started teaching at GAIS in 2005 after a year of substituting in the preschool.  My experience at GAIS includes working as an Assistant in preschool and as an Assistant Teacher in Vorschule.

Before joining GAIS, I spent 25 years teaching at the German American Saturday school, where I taught K-2nd grade. I taught summer school and gave workshops for teachers of German as a second language.

Prior to working at GAIS I was Director of Educational Services at PHP, a Nonprofit Organization.

At PHP I co-founded the ITech Center, a national model for connecting educators  and students with assistive technology in the classrooms to maximize learning.

I have been living in California with my husband and three children since 1983.

Our family sincerely enjoys the diverse culture in the Bay Area and I strongly believe teaching at GAIS  promotes the values  in education that are critical to  the future  of society.

What makes teaching at an IB school special?

An IB school’s emphasis on transdisciplinary education, independence and creativity in its teachers and students are what sets it apart from other schools. In the IB school the focus is on teaching students how to become independent thinkers and lifelong learners. As a teacher it is a privilege to facilitate learning through such an exciting and innovative process.

Why did you choose to work at GAIS?

I chose the GAIS program because of its outstanding preschool program and the excellent teamwork among the teachers.

Now I enjoy being part of the Vorschule team as well as being part of the larger GAIS community.

The excellent educational goals GAIS promotes are directly aligned with my educational philosophy. I believe the kind of education GAIS students acquire is absolutely vital to their success in the future.

Natalie Stoe
Kindergarten Teacher

I was born and raised in Bern, Switzerland, and studied Preprimary and Primary Education at the Pädagogische Hochschule in Bern.
 After my graduation in 2007 I got the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream of living and working abroad. For a year I taught German, English and French in two schools in northeastern Argentina. Back in my hometown Bern, I worked as a primary school teacher before coming to the U.S.

In 2011, I joined my husband, who is American, to live in San Francisco. From my first visit to GAIS I was amazed by the compassion and teamwork the teachers show. I find the creative atmosphere of the school to be unique and special. I am excited for another year of teaching at GAIS and am happy to be part of the community.

Why did you choose to teach at GAIS?


When I first visited GAIS I appreciated the open-mindedness and creativity inherent in the school. I also recognized the diversity of the students and parents. It is nice to see different cultures and languages come together. The impression I received from the teachers is that they cared about the students and supported their self-confidence, individuality, and independence. I find the inquiry-based teaching to be fascinating. GIAS also has a strong community feeling that is open and warm.

What makes you an international teacher?

I grew up in a country with four national languages and have relatives in 5 different countries. Therefore I was exposed to international environments at an early age. Languages and learning about different cultures have always been a passion of mine. Primary education was my choice of study because I wanted to help and develop young minds. My curiosity to learn about other countries and cultures is the reason I have traveled to over 30 different countries and taught on three continents. I enjoy communicating my passion around cultures and teaching children everyday as an international teacher. Some of the most important qualities for an international teacher are to be flexible, keep an open mind and be willing to learn more at all times.

Jutta Cottarel
Kindergarten Assistant

A biologist by training, I changed my career path when I had my own children, two sons and one daughter, and found my new vocation in the field of teaching and child development. I grew up in Fulda, Germany, pursued my studies in Cologne, and did research work at the University of Giessen, where I met my husband. We decided to come to the U.S. in 1991.

I joined the Aquarium Kindergarten class at GAIS as an assistant teacher six years ago. Our family relocated from the East Coast, where I held a position as an assistant teacher in the Kindergarten program at the French International School in Boston. I also taught a second grade class at the German Saturday School. Our family became founding members of the German International School Boston, which our children attended for a few years.

Maria Merintiti 2 120x160

Maria Merentiti
Kindergarten Assistant 

I was born in Greece and studied law and German linguistics in Germany and  Switzerland. I worked as a lawyer for a construction company in Greece and as a German teacher at a private school. In 2011 I moved with my husband to California. I am  very happy to be part of the GAIS Team.

Our Elementary School Teachers:

Lisa Vestewig

Lisa Vestewig
First Grade Teacher

I grew up in Ulm, Germany and moved to Stuttgart to study for my education credentials at the Pädagogische Hochschule Ludwigsburg. Upon completion, I stayed in the Swabian capital where I taught first and second grade and also PE and Music to third and fourth graders.

After studying in Norway I wanted to gain experience in the IB curriculum and to work with children from different cultures because they are so open-minded. As a result, I am so excited to become a part of the GAIS community. I can’t wait to learn together with my new first grade students! In my spare time I enjoy swimming, running, dancing, traveling and spending time in nature.

Eva Dorner
First Grade Teacher

I grew up in Pforzheim, Germany and went to school at the Pädagogische Hochschule in Freiburg where I received my first credentials as a primary and middle school teacher. After finishing at Freiburg, I interned at GAIS for four months assisting with the 1st Grade.

I then returned to Germany where I taught a combined class (in Oberndorf am Neckar) of first and second graders in PE, Science, Music and Arts and six graders in Math. In my spare time I enjoy playing the piano and traveling to exotic places around the world. I enjoy being a part of the GAIS community and its close-knit community of educators.

Why did you choose to teach at GAIS?

I always wanted to live and teach in another country. One reason was to improve my English skills and the second was to gain more life experiences. It is always a great opportunity to teach at an international school. You get to know a lot of people from different cultures and you learn a lot from each other. It is also very interesting to see how families deal with the bilingualism and I like the challenge of helping them with their German.

What qualities do you see in the students that have been through our program?

From first grade on the children are taught to be very independent which continues during their whole school career. As a result they are able to learn independently and help each other. Another great benefit is that the students are all bilingual and most of them learn a third or a fourth language, making them very marketable here or abroad. They are also more comfortable speaking, acting or presenting in front of the class or even the whole school community. This instills in them a lot of confidence and provides them with a valuable skill they will need and use for the rest of their lives.

Isabelle Heller 120x160

Isabelle Heller
Second Grade Teacher

I grew up in the Odenwald and received my teaching credential for elementary and middle school from University of Education Heidelberg.

After we moved to the beautiful Bay Area in 2009 I started teaching at German Saturday Schools and in 2010 accepted a Hort position at GAIS. While working in the School Hort I got to appreciate the vibrant GAIS community and the IB spirit and knew I wanted to stay on.

I have been teaching second grade since the beginning of 2012 and highly enjoy working with that age group.

What makes teaching at an IB school special?

I enjoy teaching in Units and carrying the Central Idea over into other subjects like German, Math, and Art. Students are able to shape the course of the Unit by expressing interest in specific areas. For me it is a very holistic way of approaching concepts such as time or community.

What are some qualities that you see within the GAIS teaching staff?

Teachers at GAIS are very dedicated and often go the extra mile to ensure student success. Teamwork is an important aspect of an IB school and helps staff plan, teach, review, and improve on a daily basis. There is a lot of support amongst the teachers and the work atmosphere is great!

Ulrike List

Ulrike List
Second Grade Teacher

I was born and raised in Austria, and studied Primary Education at the Pädagogische Akademie in Baden. I also studied Fine Arts at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. After 4 years of teaching in Vienna I had the opportunity to work in France, while still thinking of my lifelong dream to live and work in the U.S. Sharing creativity is a wonderful way to learn from each other.

 

Ina Berenger

Ina Berenger
Third Grade Teacher

I am a credentialed elementary school teacher with German and Art as my main subjects. Before moving from Hamburg to California in 2002, I worked in an elementary and middle school, teaching 1st through 7th grade. In the States I have worked in several co-ops which my children attended. As my husband is French, our two daughters have learned three languages, which makes multilingual education a central theme of my private life as well.

In 2006-2007 I studied “German as a second language” at the Goethe-Institut and graduated in 2007. I started working at GAIS in 2007 as an assistant in the Vorschule and as German teacher for the VS children. I am now the 3rd Grade teacher and I am excited about helping the students explore and understand the world.

What qualities do you see in the students that have been through our program?

Our kids are going to school with so much enthusiasm and are so curious. Learning to understand concepts and working on bigger projects and ideas rather then memorizing lots of facts makes it possible for them to stay interested and responsible for their own learning.

What are some qualities that you see within the GAIS teaching staff?

I am impressed by the amount of hard work and dedication the GAIS teaching staff has. The teachers really care about their students here and try their very best to help each one of them to succeed.

 


Claudia Gruber 120x160

Claudia Gruber
Third Grade Teacher

I was born and raised in the canton of Graubünden in Switzerland where I  received my elementary school teaching credentials. After my studies and two years of teaching in Switzerland I wanted to travel the world but never made it much further than California. Blame it on the beautiful area, the international flair or meeting my husband…

I worked at GAIS for four years when the school was first founded, before my husband and I opened a small restaurant in San Francisco. Four years later we had our daughter and three years after that our son. Both are now attending GAIS. All this time I missed teaching and when the kids had reached a certain age I decided it was time to go back into the classroom. Hard to believe, but this will be my fifth year teaching the first grade at GAIS. I very much enjoy working with so many international families and colleagues from all over the world.

I still love the Bay Area’s open mindedness and the beautiful rolling golden hills after having been here so many years.

Why did you choose to teach at GAIS?

I have not traveled the world as much as I had wanted to, but it has always been clear to me that I wanted to meet people from all over the world. Differences and different experiences enrich us enormously. It just makes life so much more interesting. In the end though, all our differences are minimal. All cultures and countries consist of human beings who feel happy or sad and are learners and thinkers with all the typical human traits. This is also what I would like the children to understand.

So where can I find the whole world represented in one small place?  

At our school of course!  I really enjoy working with colleagues from all over the world, and I look forward to meeting new families with many different cultural backgrounds.

Christine Burris

Christine Burris
Fourth Grade Teacher

I studied English and French at the University of Göttingen, Germany. After receiving my M.A. I taught Grades 9 and 10 in Celle. In the United States I also studied German-as-a-second-language at State University of San Francisco and received a second M.A.

Since 1994 I have been teaching many different subjects in the Elementary and Middle Schools at GAIS. I recently completed a certification course in Life Coaching at the Coaches Training Institute (CTI) in San Rafael in Marin County.

What makes teaching at an IB school special?

We teach units through concepts promoting global aspects and life long learning. The themes are relevant and meaningful. They are closely related to the real world. Students learn through hands-on activities and projects and go on many unique field trips that are unit related.

What are some aspects that you see within the GAIS teaching staff?

We are all carefully selected to suit each teaching position. We are highly qualified with mostly MA degrees from various countries. Some of us even have credentials from more than one country. We believe in the IB program and are very motivated to teach our students to make the world a better place. We are very flexible, international, and open-minded. We are trained to create/adjust/change our curriculum as needed. Thus we are providing an outstanding international bilingual education based on learning through inquiry.

 

Maria Metzner

Maria Metzner
Fourth Grade Teacher

I grew up in picturesque Speyer in the south west of Germany before leaving to study education in Heidelberg. Soon after I moved to Berlin and began working in my first IB school, where I fell in love with the philosophy behind the PYP.

In my free time I enjoy photography, music and design. More than anything I love to bring my creative side into the classroom. I am very much looking forward to adjusting to life in the Bay Area and taking on the new challenge of being a fourth grade homeroom teacher at GAIS.

Michelle Burgos

Michelle Burgos
English Teacher (Grade 1 & 2)

I am from Union City, California, which is directly across the bridge from GAIS. I have my TESOL Certificate from Cal State University East Bay, and have previously substitute taught for the New Haven Unified School District. For the past five years, I’ve been living in the Middle East, and for the past three years, I’ve taught Fourth Grade.

I consider myself a history nerd, so there’s no surprise that my B.A. is in Classic Civilizations from The University of California, Davis. That interest led me to Egypt, where I went from exploring antiquity to enrolling in an M.A. program for Migration and Refugee Studies. In the process of completing my thesis, I found my way to Jordan where I met my husband, and began teaching Fourth Grade.

Now, circling my way back to California, I’ve found myself anticipating continuing teaching in a bilingual international school as the First and Second Grade English Teacher at GAIS. I’m also really looking forward to immersing myself in the IB program and to learning some German on the side!

David Giesen

David Giesen
English/Social Studies Teacher (Grade 3 & 4)

After taking my B.A. in English from UC Santa Barbara and then earning both multiple subject (3-8) and single subject (English and Social Studies) teaching credentials from Dominican University in San Rafael, I settled in Mendocino County on California’s north coast before moving to San Francisco in 1996. I’ve classroom taught grades 4-8 at schools in San Francisco where I also served as librarian and theater arts director before coming to GAIS in 2006.

I enjoy writing plays and children’s books, but before the sun sets after school you are welcome to join me bicycling or kayaking San Francisco environs. Or come along on the weekend on my walking tour of San Francisco.

What makes teaching at an IB school special?

Perhaps owing to its European Parliament complexion, but certainly as a function of the IB emphasis on collegiality and trans-disciplinary skills, GAIS has been a welcome experience for me. I am by social inclination a sharer and consensus-seeker (not withstanding being opinionated), and the opportunity to work cooperatively towards coherent curriculum through frequent staff conferencing pleases me. In fact, I relish the give and take, push and tug of negotiation.

What qualities do you see in the students that have been through our program?

GAIS students are largely a self-confident, alert, and considerate batch of kids. The enrollment to outdoor play area ratio is good, with lots of space for semi-private space to play. Of special note is the IB emphasis on social development and relationships. I earnestly believe this emphasis cultivates the strongest sinews of citizenry, namely a commitment to cooperation.

Janet Roitsch

Janet Roitsch
Music Teacher

I was born and raised in Leipzig and I am a credentialed elementary school teacher who graduated from the University “Alma mater lipsiensis” (university of Leipzig). After my studies and one year of internship I received my diploma in Montessori education. I loved teaching children according to Maria Montessori’s ideas at my first job as a classroom and music teacher at a private elementary school in Dresden.

I really enjoy music, like to sing and dance and I play the guitar. Above all, I love to make music with children. I am excited to work at GAIS and look forward to combining my interest in music and teaching.

What makes teaching at an IB school special?

The IB Classroom is a dynamic work environment. Every day the IB teacher is challenged to engage his/her students in a personal exploration of the topic. It requires creativity, innovative ideas and personal growth. I like to be challenged in that way. And it is very rewarding to see students being excited and enjoy learning so much.

What qualities do you see in the students that have been through our program?

The IB program teaches children how to think about and analyse what they are learning, rather than simply memorizing facts. Higher-level thinking is one of the best qualities I have seen in the students that have been through our program.

Amy Parsons 120x160

Amy Parsons
ESL Teacher 

I grew up in New Mexico, and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Foreign Languages at the University of New Mexico. During this time, I spent one year as an exchange student at the Karl-Franzens University in Austria. After obtaining my Bachelor’s Degree, I went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education. I obtained my teaching credential while teaching a second grade classroom in New Mexico.

I then went on to teach first grade in a PYP international school in Brussels, Belgium. Before moving to America, my husband and I took a year long bicycle trip from Belgium to China. Happy to now be off of my bike and back in the classroom, I am looking forward to sharing my love of learning with my students.

Doris Penninger

Doris Penninger
Assistant Teacher

I was born and raised in a small village in Upper Austria and moved to the Bay Area 8 months ago. I studied economics and pedagogy and received my diploma in Business and Vocational Education and Training from the Johannes Kepler Universität Linz in 2010. During my studies I also travelled a lot. Beside practical trainings in Scandinavia and cultural trips around Europe, I was an Au-Pair in the United States (Boston) for two summer periods and took care of two lovely kids. Since this time I have known that I want to work with children and students. After having received my Master’s degree I moved to Munich, Germany, where I finished the Internship (Referendariat) for high schools in 2012.

During those two years I taught economics, IT and German from Grade 9 to 11. In my spare time I enjoy travelling, hiking, skiing and spending time with my friends and family. I am very excited to join the GAIS team and looking forward to my role as a first Grade Teaching Assistant. Teaching at a bilingual school has always been my dream since I came to California.