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Middle School Team

The IMS teachers are a diverse group of educators with local and international teaching experience. The teachers are all trained and prepared in the curriculum and assessment processes of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Program (MYP). We research and collaborate on the newest teaching methodologies with international schools and universities to assure high academic rigor of the Middle School. English and German-speaking graduates from European universities often visit our school and assist in our classrooms.


Sally Thorogood copySally Thorogood
Head of School

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. I have been an educator for more than two decades and have taught children from kindergarten through fifth grade, initially in the English state school system and from 1998-2012 in Munich International School (MIS). My family moved to Munich as a result of my husband’s two year secondment with BMW but stayed far longer, having become positively immersed in the international school environment, International Baccalaureate curriculum, Bavarian countryside, and German language and culture. Soon after joining the MIS community as a parent, I was asked to sign up for substitute teaching and the following year I accepted the position of Grade 2 homeroom teacher. Subsequently I held the positions of PYP coordinator and Junior School Assistant Principal.

During my years in Munich I completed the Certificate of International School Leadership and trained as a School Visitor for the International Baccalaureate Organisation, leading school authorization and evaluation visits in a variety of international schools from 2006 onwards. Many of these visits involved working closely with Middle School and High School administrators and my experience as a parent of children studying the MYP and IB Diploma also broadened my knowledge base of the IB as a whole. In 2008 I began studying part-time for my Masters in Education through Bath University in England and earned my M.Ed. in July 2014.

read more about Sally Thorogood

By 2012, our children, James and Jenni, had graduated from different universities in England and based themselves in Munich and London respectively. So my husband (Mark) and I decided we were ready for a new adventure and were delighted to have the opportunity to become positively immersed in the GAIS school community and life in California.

I am excited to be extending my responsibilities to K-8 Principal in the coming year after three years in the role of Elementary School Principal. I am particularly looking forward to reconnecting with many of the students and parents I have known in the younger grades, and working alongside the Middle School teachers as we implement the Next Chapter of the Middle Years Program.

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



Karen Relf
Upper School Principal

I was born and grew up in Australia and have worked in education, in a number of different roles, for over 29 years in various countries around the world (Australia, South Korea, the U.K., Jordan, and China).

At the start of my career in Australia, I was a teacher of Health and Physical Education, but have also taught history, study of society, junior science, English, and drama. Later, I worked as a sports director and in head of department roles, in the areas of physical education, teaching & learning, and curriculum development. I continued with my interest in administrative roles and worked as Deputy Principal of the Middle Phase of Learning and then as whole school Deputy for Student and Staff Welfare. Additionally, I worked as a regional advisor for a group of about 60 schools to support their design, development, and resourcing of specialist learning programs for special education, learning support, gifted & talented, and students at risk.

Internationally, I have taught in the U.K. and worked in a language institute in South Korea teaching English as a second language. I was Secondary Principal for grades 6 to 12 at New English School, a large International school in Amman, Jordan. Most recently, my role was as Executive Principal at Léman International School in Chengdu, China where I was responsible for grades 3 to 12. I led the development of the secondary school and the implementation of the IB Diploma program for our first cohort of grade 12 graduates at the end of the 2015 – 16 school year.

Having grown up in sunny Queensland in Australia, I love the beach and spend as much time as possible either in or near the water. I enjoy most sports both as a participant and spectator, cooking, and travelling to new destinations.


Alex Norwood

Alex Norwood
Dean of Student Life

I was born and raised in Canada where I received two degrees from Queen’s University and the University of Toronto. Since then, I have had six years of teaching experience in four different countries (Japan, Canada, Mexico, and England) and now USA, covering a breadth of subjects ranging from ESL and Science to Mathematics.

As an educator my goal is to apply my academic expertise and my learning experiences to dedicated global citizens. I am excited that my experience has brought me to the Bay Area to work in the IB framework. I am an advocate for life long learning through academic and personal experiences. I look forward to educating young global citizens for another year at GAIS.


Susanna Arango copySusana Arango
Advisory Grade 6, Spanish Language Acquisition, Individuals & Societies (English)

Don’t be misled by my fancy scarf and beret: although I have traveled thousands of miles to join the GAIS team, it isn’t from Europe, but from South America. I was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia, but now my maverick spirit and my love for new challenges has taked me to the breathtaking San Francisco Bay Area. I was an IB student once, too, and once I finished high school, my profound interest and curiosity for other cultures led me to study Languages and Sociocultural Studies at Universidad de los Andes (Colombia’s #1 University) were I graduated Magna Cum Laude.

read more about Susana Arango

This year, I will be enrolling as the new Spanish (“Language Acquisition”) and Humanities (soon to be known as “Individuals and Societies”) teacher. I like to describe myself as an MYP aficionada not only because I have dedicated the last three years to make it my field of expertise, but also because I cannot picture my life without teaching this exhilarating program.

As a matter of fact, this June I will be attending the IB Academy in Philadelphia, so you might be saying hello to a soon-to-become member of the IB Educators Network.

Debbie Trimble copyDeborah Trimble
Advisory Grade 8, Design Technology, Sciences

I have lived and worked my entire life in California. My first job was working with children as a swimming instructor and lifeguard in Salinas, CA. After I graduated from college, I coached an AAU swim team in San Jose, and started graduate studies at San Jose State University. I was very fortunate to be hired as a geologist at the U. S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park. For nearly 20 years I worked in the Radiocarbon Laboratory, first as a technician and later as the supervisor of the lab.

read more about Deborah Trimble
While working at the USGS I married my husband Mike, also a geologist, and we started our family. We have five wonderful children, and now a granddaughter.

Children have always been close to my heart. While at the USGS I founded GeoKids, a parent cooperative daycare center, which still remains a model for employer supported childcare. In 1995 I left the USGS to return to school and received my teaching credential from Norte Dame De Namur University in Belmont. As an intern, I found my passion: inspiring young teens in math and science is my great joy!

After 17 years of teaching at a parochial school in San Carlos, I am excited to have moved into a new phase of my career teaching in the IB framework. I became aware of IB programs first as a parent; both of my younger children were enrolled in the IB diploma program at Sequoia High School. My husband and I were very impressed by the quality and depth of the education they received. As I teacher, I realized how closely my teaching philosophy aligns with the IB program. Teaching at GAIS is a dream come true for me. I have been very impressed by the school’s learning environment and enthusiastically look forward to another year with the wonderful teachers and students at this exceptional school.


Alex Moore copyAlex Moore
Advisory Grade 7, English Language & Literature

I was born and raised in Pensacola, Florida. I completed my undergraduate degree in German at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, one year of which was spent as an exchange student at the Universität Tübingen in Baden Württemberg, Germany. That experience transformed my entire worldview, and I knew that the next step in my life would involve more overseas experiences. I completed the FAST Train international education program at George Mason University in 2001.

read more about Alex Moore

Since then I have taught Kindergarten, multiple subjects to 5th through 8th grades, English to 10th and 11th and Theory of Knowledge to 11th and 12th. I have gained teaching experience in all 3 major IB programs—PYP, MYP and DP—and the Advanced IB Curriculum and Instruction master’s degree I am working on through George Mason University continues to expand and deepen my understanding of the IB curriculum as a whole. Although my international school teaching experiences have taken place in numerous countries—Namibia, Egypt, Uzbekistan and the Philippines—I am excited to continue my international school teaching experience in the United States.

As the new middle school English teacher it may come as no surprise that I love stories. I am an avid reader in my personal life, and I also find deep joy in the processes and experience of writing. I love to be outdoors either hiking or camping or boating or swimming or whatever. I love playing sports, specifically tennis and basketball. And I really love coaching basketball as well.

I once wrote that my role as teacher is essentially twofold: I not only need to provide my students with the truth, but I also need to help co-create the conditions in which the students can discover the truth for themselves. Equipping students with the tools needed to become lifelong learners is the whole thing, and I look forward to continuing this process at GAIS this year.

Diana Brown copyDiana Brown
Mathematics (English)

Greetings! I’m an Australian, originally from country NSW, where I grew up riding horses and herding cattle on a 26 acre hobby farm. In 2001, I moved over 500 km away from home to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Queensland, Brisbane. While studying at the university, I was fortunate enough to discover my love for teaching when tutoring freshman physics classes. After graduating with majors in both physics and mathematics, I decided that teaching was the right path for me and I enrolled immediately in a graduate entry bachelor of education program.

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Upon graduation, I taught for a year in a state high school, and then was lucky enough to be contacted by the school in which I had served my internship, an IB school, asking if I was interested in a position there. I jumped at the chance to become an IB-DP teacher, as I truly believe it is one of the best education models in the world.

Two and a half years later, I was able to secure a position in Tianjin, China, at an IB world school, teaching both DP and MYP. While in China, I had many amazing experiences and even learned a little Mandarin.

My husband and I returned to Australia in November of 2012, but, as things turned out, we only stayed there for a year before he was offered a programming job in the Bay Area, and that’s how I ended up here at GAIS.

I am passionate about mathematics education, and the need to make content both engaging and relevant to students. I love using technology in the classroom, and my favorite lessons to teach involve students discovering mathematical principles by themselves.

In my spare time I enjoy running, hiking, reading and learning to program.

Anke Glueck copyAnke Glück
Mathematics (German)

I never thought I would leave my beloved Leipzig – but life doesn’t always turn out the way you plan. I must admit I really enjoy living in California! After receiving my Master’s Degree in Physics I rejected a career as a physicist and finally decided to pursue my dream of becoming a teacher. I continued my studies at the University of Leipzig and earned a Master’s Degree in teaching Math and Physics.

In Germany I taught students in middle and high school and learned to juggle both my job and my two kids.

Working at GAIS means being part of an inspired and dedicated team of teachers who create engaging learning environments in and outside their classrooms always striving to provide positive learning experiences for their students. Being a GAIS parent means seeing your children enjoy going to school every day. My son grew from being a shy and insecure student to become much more confident in class and now even being thrilled to give presentations in front of his classmates and teacher. Thank you GAIS!

Nicole Mueller copyNicole Mueller
French Language Acquisition, Individuals & Societies (German)

„Bonjour“ and „Güetun Tag“! You may not understand the second phrase, but I can proudly say that after three years, some of our staff and students actually do understand some bits and pieces of my mother tongue, Switzerdeutsch.

Ever since I was a child I’ve been fascinated by other cultures and always wondered what it would be like to actually live in a different culture. When studying English back in Switzerland, I fantasized about being surrounded by this language and about living in a culture that speaks it. And now, here I am, living my dream.

read more about Nicole Mueller

I enjoy teaching at GAIS very much. I feel very lucky to be able to teach French, as French has always played a big role in my life. I grew up in a bilingual region and have family and friends in the French speaking part of Switzerland as well as in France. In addition to teaching French, I rediscovered my passion for Humanities. For several years, I worked in the Historic Museum in Berne, Switzerland, where I did guided tours in French, German and English. I worked in the Einstein exhibition primarily, but I did guided tours for our Middle Ages exhibition and other exhibitions as well. Teaching Humanities and thus being able to bring some of the topics of the Historic Museum to the classroom is really inspiring and gives me a lot of joy.

I chose to teach at GAIS because it is a school that’s just the right size (neither too big, nor too small). I know that the school administration and the parents have high expectations of me and also of the students, therefore it is a challenging, yet fascinating and very instructive setting. Moreover, I like the spirit of this school.

Ulrike List copyUlrike List
Visual Arts & Second Grade (ES)

I was born and raised in Austria, and studied Fine Arts at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna as well as education at the Pädagogische Akademie in Baden. 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.

Daniela Klimetschek copyDaniela Klimetschek
Performing Arts Drama

“Einen wunderschönen, guten Morgen,” that’s how I used to welcome my students in Berlin, where I studied and worked for more than ten years.

I grew up in Lower-Saxony next to Hanover, where I got my accent-free German. After my Abitur I went to Spain to work in the entertainment department at a resort; that was the first time I worked with children and teenagers. I enjoyed it a lot and I decided to become a teacher. I studied German and history in Berlin.

read more about Daniela Klimetschek

During my years at university I was able to work at a school for students with special needs, teaching them English, German, history and life skills. I then worked at a private international school with 250 students from many countries including Russia, Korea, Croatia, and Australia. The teachers came from all over the world too and everyone benefited from the different cultures.

I very much enjoy teaching at GAIS!

Elisabeth Boegl copyElisabeth Bögl
German Language & Literature, Performing Arts Music

I was born and raised in a small village in Upper Austria, where I completed my college training in Kindergarten education. After that I studied Music and German pedagogy at the Mozarteum and the Paris Lodron Universität in Salzburg. I continued there with my PhD studies in Musicology to deepen my music theory knowledge as well as to broaden my German language skills. In my past seven years of teaching, my emphasis has been on teaching Music and German.

read more about Elisabeth Bögl

During my studies and teaching career in Austria, I had the opportunity to teach vocals and lead the mixed choir at my former Austrian High School and fulfill a passion of my own. The diverse school performances I planned, organized and led all benefited from my desire to improve my own voice and singing technique: the choir participated in concerts with other professional choirs, including at the well known Salzburger Summer Festival.

The height of my studies was my three years of additional ECHA-education (European Council for High Ability) in supporting gifted and talented students. It led me to participate in two very inspiring conferences on gifted education in the US in 2013 and motivated me to apply to GAIS.

It is my goal to inspire my students with my personal love of music and literature. The daily experience of fulfilling this aim fills me with great joy.

Christine Burris copyChristine Burris
Fourth Grade Teacher & German Language Acquisition (MS)

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.

read more about Christine Burris

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.

Mirko Widjanarko copyMirko Kusuma Widjanarko
Physical & Health Education/ Hort Teaching Assistant

My name is Mirko Widjanarko and I was born in a small city near Bremen, but grew up in a bilingual environment in Indonesia. After 18 years I went back to Germany where I finished my education as a „Heilerziehungspfleger“ in 2010. After that I worked in Cologne for two more years until I started advanced training in 2012 to become a therapist for children with special needs. In the same year I successfully completed my qualification as a sport instructor.

read more about Mirko Widjanarko

Recently, I was working in a preschool in Düsseldorf where I also taught PE. In my spare time I like to draw, listen to music and do all kind of sports, like slack lining, soccer, tennis, cycling, swimming, and juggling. I am happy and very excited to be part of GAIS.

Eva Dorner copyEva Dorner
First Grade Teacher and Physical & Health Education (MS)

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.

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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.