Welcome New Faculty!

Five enthusiastic teachers have joined the faculty at Mount Madonna School (MMS) this year. Ashley England, Brian Darsie, Kelly Cox, Micha Scott and Tina Pendleton will be working in an array of capacities including teaching middle school English and music, mathematics, physics, and elementary dance, and coaching volleyball.

Alumna Ashley England (’08) returns to MMS to assist with 6th and 7th grade English first semester, and then lead both classes second semester while instructor Sampad Martin Kachuck takes a sabbatical. England graduated cum laude from Loyola University in New Orleans with a B.A. in English Literature and a minor in Business Administration and German. Her previous experience includes working as a 1st/2nd grade teaching assistant in Dortmund, Germany; and teaching high school math, science and English SAT prep classes in New Orleans.

A skilled and experienced volleyball player, England will also assist with coaching the girls varsity volleyball team. As an MMS student she played for the girls varsity in high school (and was a member of the team that won the California state championship in 2007); and at Loyola, England was a starting player. Her previous coaching experience includes club and junior varsity teams.

‘I am very excited to co-teach with Sampad this semester,’ said England. ‘I came to MMS in 7th grade and Sampad was my 7th and 8th grade English teacher. Some of the skills that he taught me in middle school have stayed with me throughout high school and college. I credit him for all of my organizational skills! The opportunity to teach alongside him now is an honor. It will be exciting to watch my students discover the joy of reading and becoming writers themselves, and I hope they create great memories while in my class!’

Brian Darsie joins MMS as part of the performing arts directing team, and will lead middle and high school music classes during Music Director Leah Parker Zumberge’s maternity leave. Darsie grew up in the Atlanta suburb of Roswell. His passion for music and vocal performance began in third grade when a school music teacher arranged for him to participate in the Atlanta Opera Company’s production of La Boh’me as part of the children’s chorus.

‘It was a crazy summer of driving into the city for costume fittings and rehearsals and long night performances, but I was selected for a short solo — and I think that’s what got me hooked,’ shared Darsie. He also studied piano for many years and credits several teachers for inspiring his deep appreciation for music, and ultimately pursuing music at a collegiate level. 

Darsie graduated with a B.M. in Voice from the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University and was immersed in the world of classical music and, above all, opera. He studied voice with several professors, but his primary teacher was Patricia Havranek.

‘She took my voice to places others could not by giving me a firm foundation in a range I felt comfortable,’ he said. ‘Much of what I teach comes from her, in that we want singing to be natural and unforced. She also uses yoga with her students, which is a crucial aspect of my own teaching strategy. I love bringing out the ‘individual voice’ in each person, and the ‘magic’ in the final product when there is real, audible progress.’

Darsie describes himself as ‘spiritually-minded’ and active with various church organizations throughout high school and college. His work experience includes teaching private voice lessons, and several years as an outdoor camp counselor working with middle and high school students.

Kelly Cox will be teaching math and science classes, including Algebra 1, AP Calculus AB, and Honors Physics. An engineer for twenty years, Cox worked most recently teaching physics at the Pan American School of Bahia in Salvador, Brazil, a school approximately the same size as MMS, with classes averaging about 20 students.

Prior to that, Cox taught math and physics at the much larger Madison East High School in Madison, Wisconsin, which had a student body of about 1,600. He graduated with an M.S.E.E. in Quantum Electronics from the University of Southern California, and a B.A. in Applied Physics from the University of California, Davis. Cox received his Teaching Certification from Concordia University, Madison, in 2005.

‘I changed careers from engineering to teaching when I was 43 because I wanted to give back to the community I am part of,’ said Cox. ‘I greatly enjoy sharing my love for science and helping students to learn how to think like a scientist. I am excited about joining Mount Madonna School for many reasons, including the small class sizes, the focus on personal growth, and the opportunity for really getting to know my students.’

Cox speaks Portuguese, plays the mandolin — he’s drawn to bluegrass music — and enjoys ballroom and swing dancing. Other interests include running, bicycling and rollerblading. As a teenager he also learned to play harmonica — from Ami Leso, a favorite teacher at Morgan Hill’s Live Oak High School where Cox was a student.

‘Mr. Leso told me he used be a hobo and ride trains across the country during the ’30s,’ shared Cox. ‘So I learned to play harmonica from a real figure of Americana.’

Dancer, teacher and choreographer Micha Scott will join MMS as elementary school dance teacher. Scott began her formal dance training at age 3, and in the years since has ‘pursued excellence in all aspects of a dancer’s life, from training and performing, to sharing my knowledge with others through teaching, to producing my own works of choreography.’

When she was 18, Scott joined the renowned Garth Fagan Dance company, performing and teaching worldwide for 13 years. 

‘As a biracial woman I was drawn to Fagan’s positive portrayal of people of color,’ explained Scott, ‘and that sensibility informs my work today.’

In addition to teaching at MMS, Scott is also an instructor and Artistic Director at the Tannery World Dance and Cultural Center in Santa Cruz, modern dance instructor at Dancenter in Soquel, and choreographer for numerous studios and local schools. She is an avid reader, loves to bake and enjoys bike rides with her husband and three children. 

‘My work in schools is both compelling and rewarding,’ said Scott. ‘As a dance educator, I provide youth with a look into the world of dance. Through fun and games we explore what it means to dance, and students become ‘movement inventors’ as they discover creative ways to move. They will learn basic technique, musicianship, and build dance vocabulary. I incorporate influences from around the world to provide a wide-ranging scope of cultural traditions in dance, as well as various rhythmic accompaniments. I am well-versed in classroom management skills and implementing teaching standards.’

Tina Pendleton will teach Algebra II, as well as the new middle school Outdoor Adventure Program. She is also coaching the girls volleyball Gold Team, which includes 3rd through 6th graders. Pendleton received an Associate’s Degree in Business and Accounting from Denver Business College, and holds a certificate in Nursing and Medical Assisting. Her professional experience in the technology field is extensive, including her current role as a Technical Manager, Customer Account Service at Oracle, where she manages engineers and internal infrastructure.

A sports and outdoor enthusiast, Pendleton enjoys downhill skiing and during ski season works as an instructor at Lake Tahoe’s Heavenly Mountain Resort. She is a referee and certified coach for the Santa Cruz County Soccer program; and for six years she also taught, coached and refereed hockey through the Scotts Valley Sports Center.

‘When I moved to California ten years ago I started researching schools for my son who was eight months old at the time,’ explained Pendleton. ‘After reviewing the information, I was convinced that Mount Madonna was the right school for my outdoor-loving family. My son started at MMS when he was three and he is attending 4th grade this year. I’ve always worked with children in some way and have volunteered with MMS for nearly six years. In school, math became my favorite subject due to a special teacher who used my competitive attitude to push my math abilities! I hope I can do the same for the students I’ll teach at MMS.’ 


Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, Marketing & Communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 355 mountaintop acres, Mount Madonna is a safe and nurturing college-preparatory school that supports students in becoming caring, self-aware and articulate critical thinkers, who are prepared to meet challenges with perseverance, creativity and integrity. The CAIS and WASC accredited  program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville.


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