Senior Leadership Team

Sally Thorogood, Head of School
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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.

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.

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



Heike Schmalstieg, Preschool Principal

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I received my degree in Early Childhood Education in Germany more than 20 years ago and have continued my studies here in the US. I also received a certificate in teaching a second language from the University of California at Berkeley. I have gained valuable experience in German, as well as American preschools and of course here at GAIS.

I started teaching at GAIS in 1994. Over the years, I have seen the preschool grow from 24 children to more than 100 and the whole school from less than 100 to more than 300 students. During my stay at GAIS, I have taken two extended leaves to stay home with my own children, until they reached preschool age. I have always been excited to return to GAIS and my children have had the privilege to attend GAIS as well. The school has changed and evolved over the years, yet it has always kept its special appeal. The preschool has a truly unique concept, combining the need of the child to explore freely, challenging the child on all levels and providing a great balance between structured activities and free exploration.

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The IB Primary Years Program is inquiry based and fosters the child’s natural curiosity.  It is a pleasure to run a program that provides as many opportunities, while a child can still be a child. The children in our program have the opportunity to become independent thinkers, solve their own problems and conflicts, be creative, become knowledgeable about the world around them and so much more; all while learning a second language.

However, it was not only the philosophy of the program that appealed to me, but also the teaching staff. The preschool has an amazing staff of very dedicated and enthusiastic teachers that love what they do.





Alex Norwood,
Dean of Student Life

Alex NorwoodI 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.

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

Christina Keller
PYP Coordinator and English teacher

Originally from Indiana, I received my Bachelor of Arts from the University of Indianapolis, Master of Arts from Ball State University, and Master of Education from the University of Texas. I have over 25 years teaching experience as a classroom teacher in both primary and secondary grades. My secondary teaching included science, drama, English, and Spanish. In 2004, I moved to Germany and began teaching Grade 5 at the International School of Düsseldorf, where I was introduced to the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum and later served as PYP Coordinator.

read more about Christina Keller
While in Germany, I received training from the IB and have been involved in the IB Educators Network as a workshop leader and school visitor, taking part in authorization and evaluation visits in a variety of international schools in the Europe and Asia regions. From Germany, I moved to Singapore to work at the Canadian International School as the PYP Coordinator.

I have three grown sons who live in Texas and New York State. When not working, I enjoy traveling, photography, reading, and all things outdoors including biking, hiking, camping, and scuba diving.

I believe in the mission of the IB and the learning opportunities for students in the Primary Years Programme. I am excited to have the opportunity to be part of the GAIS community and a team of internationally minded educators and parents.

Katharina Glaser,
Admissions and Community Relations Director

Bio and picture coming soon…

Tim Farris,

Tim Farris copyI was born and raised right here in the Bay Area and grew up in San Mateo, so I’m a “native Californian.” I’m the youngest of 7 kids, all of whom live in California. My wife is from Germany and we have a 10 year old son who speaks German.

I’ve worked in the Tech field for numerous companies until the year 2000, when the economy took a down turn. After that I started my own business as a painting contractor (Method Painting), which was going well until the most recent recession in 2008. At that time our son had been attending pre-school at GAIS for about 6 months, when I took the position of Hausmeister (custodian) here at GAIS.

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Sad to say I never attended college, but I did take courses in electro-mechanical drafting, architecture, multimedia communications & presentation, graphic design, and photography. My hobbies are playing the bass guitar and photography, as well as doing things with my family. I love riding mountain bikes, camping, kayaking, and hiking.

I enjoy working here at GAIS. I love the kids, they are our future and watching them grow is one of the pleasures I get out of working here.

Sybille Smith,

Sybille Smith copyDue to my father’s work, I spent my childhood moving back and forth between a town near Stuttgart, Germany, and various places in the US. I received a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Florida Atlantic University before attending the Berufsakademie back in Stuttgart. From there, I graduated as Diplomingenieur der Technischen Informatik in 1989.

I worked in the IT field in Stuttgart until 1998, when my husband (US born and living in Stuttgart at the time) and I decided to relocate back to Silicon Valley during the technology boom. I continued to work in IT until deciding to stay at home with my children in 2005.

My two daughters both currently attend GAIS. Sofia started Vorschule in 2007, Eva followed one year later in Preschool. I had been a volunteer in GAIS’ library every year since 2007 and had always enjoyed it very much. When asked if I wanted to step in as a part time librarian, the decision was an easy one!

Uli Francis,

Uli Francis copyI grew up in a small town near Heidelberg, Germany. After the Abitur, I was very fortunate to be able to work for a while and then travel the world for 1 year before going back to school, becoming a Physical Therapist. I worked as a Physical Therapist first in Berlin (1989/1990), and later back in Heidelberg.  I started my own practice in 1994.

After meeting my husband during a vacation in California, he convinced me to start a new life in this beautiful state in 1998.

We have 2 children, who are now 13 and 10 years old. Being a “stay at home mom” opened up another opportunity for me, following my passion for books.

I started volunteering at the GAIS Library when my daughter went to the GAIS preschool.  I later volunteered at public school Libraries and chaired several Book Fair events. I started working part time at the GAIS Library in 2009 and I can truly say, “I love going to work”.

I love seeing children getting excited about books and teaching them to find their way around in the Library.