A meandering path has led me to Crane. I have worn many hats and have benefited from each experience. When I graduated from UCSB in 1994 with a Bachelor’s degree, I worked as a docent for the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History teaching lessons at both the museum and a variety of public schools in the Santa Barbara area. During that time, I also worked as a guide for Naturalists At Large, an outdoor education company based in Ventura and the one we currently use for our 7th Grade trip. As I tired of living on the road, I settled into a job at Devereux School teaching children and adults with mental disabilities while I worked to acquire my teaching credential from CSU Northridge. From there, I taught sixth grade at St. Paul's Episcopal Day School for a year before finding an opening at Crane. I have worked in many environments but none as inspiring as Crane. I marvel at the enthusiasm I see in everyone around me. Motivated students, creative teachers, and helpful administrators abound. Everyone truly believes this is a great place to be. I don’t know where else I would find a development officer who hip-hop dances, a music teacher who takes a xylophone group on tour, or a Fifth-Grade teacher who strums his guitar as he strolls across the field during recess duty. People comment that I smile often as I walk through the halls... These are only a few of the reasons!
5th Grade Teacher
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As a native of Santa Barbara and a Crane alumnus, I am so delighted to have found my way, full-circle, back to Crane.
I fell in love with acting on the stage here at Crane during my years in the Upper School. Now, I am the theater teacher & director and have the amazing opportunity to work with both Lower and Upper School students.
Before finding my way back to the Crane community, I taught Fourth & Fifth Grades as an elementary school teacher. But, I was soon drawn to the singular focus of teaching acting full time; and not only did I work as the Dramatic Arts Teacher at Goleta Valley Jr. High for several years, I also co-founded the Stage Left Productions summer camp.
I am also so lucky to have both of my kids here at Crane. We have the best dinner conversations as we reflect on our days in school with and without each other!
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I joined Crane's maintenance team the summer of 2016. Soon afterwards, I quickly discovered my skills and life-joys seem to run in threes.
I was born and raised in the pueblo of Santo Domingo Xenacoj, Antigua, Guatemala. Together with my wife, we are parents to three children: ages 22, 17, and 15. We have raised our children from a shared belief that the first school any student benefits from is the one found at home. As my grandparents taught me, I believe that the highest duty for all parents is to teach children everything they possibly can, from practical skills to three core qualities above all: a solid faith in self-worth; the value of taking on consistent challenges in life in order to learn and grow, and the joint importance of cordiality, thoughtfulness, and generosity in dealing with others.
I work hard using my carpentry, furniture and cabinetry design, and project management skills every day so I can savor my time with my family. Every Sunday I enjoy three weekend rituals. First, I take a long run on the beach near my home just as the sun rises, and then make pancakes for my family. Second, I head off to the swap meet with my children, where we thoroughly enjoy searching for tools, rare woods, and other treasures. Finally, I relax at home with my wife and enjoy an interesting new film, documentary, or book I’ve been waiting to read.
My favorite three places on earth are the town where I was born, the Sierra mountains around Mammoth, and Six Flags Amusement Park in Castaic (where you’ll find me on the tallest, fastest, and best-designed roller-coasters.) I also love learning. I love the History Channel, National Geographic, and any book about the natural world, which shows an appreciation for biodiversity and human culture. I love working at Crane where learning is a priority.
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There are several factors that led me to become a teacher. I was primarily influenced by my father, a Santa Barbara City College cultural anthropology professor. My parents stressed the value of education as well as learning about other cultures. We explored many fascinating countries when traveling abroad wasn't the pastime it is today. Living in a van for fifteen months at a time, we traveled through Europe, Russia, the Middle East, North Africa, and India. One of my favorite memories was when we camped right outside the great pyramids of Egypt in 1964. In 2010, I returned as a teacher and re-experienced the wonder of this ancient culture. My early travels laid the foundation for a life-long passion for learning about different cultures, then sharing and celebrating what I've learned with my students. I continue to travel and most recently returned from Thailand, India, and Nepal with my two eldest grandchildren. Some of my favorite countries include Japan, Bhutan, Laos, Burma, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
During my journeys, I engage in one of my favorite interests, photography, by capturing the daily lives, architecture, and faces of foreign cultures. When at home I love to bake and play with my grandchildren: Guinevere, Atticus, Holden, and Petra. They live just one block from me in the house where I was raised on the Mesa. My Crane journey began as a parent with my daughter Melanie. She attended Crane for nine years. During this time I worked at Montecito Union School as a teaching assistant and cooking teacher, and I also worked as an art teacher for the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. For fifteen years I was at Franklin School, teaching 3rd, 5th, and 6th Grades. I am ecstatic to have returned to Crane as a Fourth Grade teacher and to continue my involvement in this wonderful community of staff and families.
4th Grade Teacher
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I grew up in the Midwest — Kansas, until Fourth Grade, then Oklahoma through my high school years. From about Fifth Grade on, I was greatly influenced by Jacques Cousteau. I remember his television programs where he would travel the oceans in his research vessel, The Calypso, and actually go underwater for extended periods with his aqualung. I never even saw the ocean until I was twelve. That was in Galveston, Texas, where our family vacationed in a cabin built on stilts. We caught big, slippery saltwater catfish with my dad along a muddy inlet. The dorsal spine of one stabbed my little brother when he tried to pick it up.
My love of the ocean continued in college and sustained me through graduate school. I studied Marine Biology and Oceanography at the University of Oregon and at the Marine Biology Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. I studied a particular sea grass called “eelgrass” that grew in rich mudflat meadows along coastal areas of northern California.
Upon finishing a master’s degree from Humboldt State, I was hired at the Catalina Island Marine Institute, a teaching stint that gave me invaluable experience working with kids in the field and sea. Here I discovered that I had a knack for teaching and working with young people. By sheer luck I met a delightful group of students from Crane that eventually led to my being hired as a science teacher there. This was in the early 1980’s — the rest, as they say, is history.
Upper School Science Teacher
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Education and I met by accident. As an anthropology major at Wheaton College, I was determined to spend my days traipsing the globe, writing novels with my right hand while eradicating poverty with my left. I just wasn’t sure how to do it. While volunteering abroad, my eyes saw the unique power of education to transform lives and communities. Upon return, I enrolled in the NYC Teaching Fellows, entered a Master in Education program (CUNY), and launched my career. The last twelve years have been an exciting educational journey for me. From teaching special education and English in Spanish Harlem to curriculum crafting in international schools in Honduras and China, I delight in the art of life-long learning and gifting this to my students.
Beckoned by the warmer weather, I relocated to California in 2009, shifting my pedagogical focus into a more therapeutic lens and completed a Master’s in Clinical Psychology (TCSPP). I began working as an educational therapist, and it was during this time when Crane and I also met by accident. Strolling onto Crane’s campus for the first time, I immediately knew this was a special place that believed in the life-changing power of holistic and experiential education.
Upper School Learning Specialist
My love of student-centered, innovative education was likely born at a young age when I accumulated many happy memories at a Montessori school. Much later, while studying Art at UC Irvine, I met my future husband Craig, who opened my eyes to the beauty of science. That would soon grow into a love of STEM education, which led me to become a presenter at the state and national levels.
While teaching for 19 years in the Los Alamitos Unified School District, I became a fellow of the National Writing Project, as well as a demonstration teacher in inquiry science methods, reading workshop, math, and gifted education.
When we decided to move to Santa Barbara, our first concern was to find an exceptional school for our two sons, Will and Henry. Within moments of setting foot on Crane’s campus, I was head over heels in love and desperate to become a part of it! Being at a place that fosters learning through inquiry, exploration, discovery, and learning-by-doing is a perfect match for me. I am thrilled to join such a talented, passionate staffulty and to call Crane our home.
Lower School Science Teacher
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It was the beginning of 1993 and I was teaching an after-school Spanish program at Marymount School in Santa Barbara when a long-term Seventh and Eighth Grade subbing opportunity came along. I enjoyed those months and when the position ended I was truly sad. When thanking the then Head of Marymount for the opportunity she said, “There is an opening for a year at Crane School.” I thanked her about a thousand times. I showed up for the interview. A strong, beautiful, and friendly woman named Barbara was the secretary at that time and she asked a million questions to “break the ice.” She made me laugh and I instantly loved her. She is now a dear friend. Then, another friendly woman comes through the office door and she was the Upper School Spanish teacher. She kissed me on the cheek and hugged me. Wow! I worked in Human Resources in Mexico and this was not a cultural difference. I felt I had landed in a familiar friendly planet. We chatted for about two hours, walked around campus, and started to plan for the upcoming year. That was 1993 and one year has turned into over twenty-two years for me at Crane.
I often mention to my co-workers that I enjoy the first week of classes with my students as much as I did when I first arrived at Crane School. My dad used to say that I knew I wanted to work with children since I was a child. I consider myself lucky to have known my calling early in life and even luckier to spend most of it fulfilling it.
Lower School Spanish Teacher
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Travel has been a theme throughout my life. I’ve visited many exotic places, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. The people I’ve met and places I’ve visited have influenced the course my life has taken. These experiences can’t help but insinuate their way into my teaching.
I believe everyone has enormous potential for growth, be it intellectual, emotional, social, or spiritual. In my teaching, I try to present opportunities for this to occur. Sometimes my job is to not get in the way of a child’s chance to learn!
I received my BA degree in English from UCSB, and I possess California credentials for high-school English and multi-subject elementary grades. I also earned an ESL credential from UCSB Extension. I’ve been teaching at Crane for over twenty years! I love teaching here, more with each passing year.
Growing up in Santa Barbara and attending Santa Barbara’s public schools from grammar through graduate schools has provided me a wealth of local experiences over the years. Having seen the changes to our local environment during the intervening years instills in me a desire to protect and preserve our area’s natural beauties, its beaches, trails, meadows, and foothills. We still live in paradise!
In my spare time, I read, walk the local beaches and trails, and play stringed instruments.
5th Grade Teacher
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First, let me say, I love Crane. I feel so blessed to be a part of the Crane community.
I grew up in Florida and moved to Southern California in the summer of 1988. I graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a degree in Accounting, and earned my CPA certificate in 1983. In the early stages of my career I worked in both public and private accounting. I discovered independent schools in 1994 when a friend of mine referred me to the Westmark School, where I served as the Director of Finance and Operations for the past 22 years.
Last fall, my husband and I decided to shake our lives up and leave LA. Never in our wildest dreams did we think we would end up in Santa Barbara and become part of the Crane community.
We live in the Santa Barbara area with our two cats, Pebbles and BamBam. When not working, we enjoy spending time with friends, hiking, and cooking.
Director of Finance & Operations
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I grew up on the mesa in Santa Barbara, unaware that Crane Country Day School existed until I married a Crane alumnus. We would occasionally explore the campus on weekends and I, of course, thought Crane was a beautiful spot. I had worked for several years in accounting in a variety of businesses in Santa Barbara and Hawaii, including non-profits: Environmental Defense Center and Community Environmental Council. I was lucky enough to find a home with the Crane Staffulty.
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I have wanted to teach since I was in high school. I was single-minded in my focus and followed a path to teaching elementary school. My teaching career started in Santa Barbara at Open Alternative School, where I taught K-1-2, 4-5, and 5-6 combination classrooms. I took a little break from teaching when my sons were born but tutored students and went back to school to earn a different teaching credential for school libraries and a Master’s of Library and Information Science. I knew I had found my ideal calling. By teaching in school library settings, I found the perfect blend of teaching lessons, literacy, great books, technology, and research. These are my favorite things!
I cherish my years at Crane Country Day School, and I want to stay for a few more decades! I love that every day is different and that I am always found helping students, Staffulty, parents, and anyone else who might wander through the Brittingham FamilyLibrary. When not at Crane, I am usually wearing tie-dye, even though I have never heard a Grateful Dead song. My favorite Crane activity is playing the ukulele with the Crane Ukuladies!
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I am a first generation farmer. I grow row crop vegetables with my husband in Ojai. In addition, we homestead our 3-acre property where we have a small orchard, herb garden, pigs, goats, chickens, and quail.
I have now traded my tractor for gardening at Crane School. As the Garden Coordinator I am excited to build the garden program and work with students. Walking through the gardens, you can see something blooming on campus every day. We now have: shitake mushrooms in our mushroom garden, indigo in our dye beds, lemongrass in the tea garden, lettuces in the towers, vermincompost in the worm bin, chickens in the coop, and even a farm stand in the parking lot.
That is just the start; I can’t wait to keep growing here.
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Since 2001, I have been teaching Science, Mathematics, Computer Coding, and Robotics. I have taught Lego Mindstorms robotics classes where students build and program robots using NXT software. I have also taught computer programming using Scratch. Prior to teaching, I worked in the Occupational Medicine field. I have spent much of my life with hands-on projects. I was a cabinetmaker, worked in the contracting trade, and have built additions and re-plumbed my entire home. In addition, I was a fitness instructor and a native plant seed collector. I have been married to Debbie Donahue for 34 years and have two sons, Ian and Casey, who both live in the Bay Area.
Director of Engineering
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In college and graduate school, I pursued mathematics and foreign languages. In my working life, I tutored English and mathematics, sailed with the Merchant Marine, repaired motorcycles, taught English as a second language, operated satellites for the United States Air Force, and performed competitive analysis at AT&T International. In 1987, I joined the faculty of Laguna Blanca School, where I taught Spanish and mathematics and later became head of middle and upper schools. I then worked for an industrial safety business, consulting with clients throughout North and South America.
Just prior to joining Crane, I lived in Arizona for six years, where I taught mathematics at an independent school in Phoenix. Being at Crane is one of my best experiences ever!
Upper School Math Teacher
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I was born and raised in Connecticut. After attending public school through middle school, I followed my brother and sister's footsteps and attended Taft, a private boarding high school. It was here that my desire to teach was sparked. I went to Connecticut College for college, where I spent four years playing for the basketball team. I worked for a year as an apprentice teacher in New Canaan, CT before moving out to Santa Barbara to be a part of the Teaching Fellowship Program here at Crane.
Upper School History Teacher
I grew up in Virginia Beach, Virginia. After graduating from the University of Colorado (Boulder) with a BA in Spanish and Anthropology, I returned and taught Spanish at a private school in Virginia Beach for three years. I taught high school Spanish, as well as elementary Spanish. I moved to the Santa Barbara area in 2001 and began working at Crane in a variety of capacities my first year including substitute teacher, tennis coach, and assistant to the Head of School.
After that first year, I have been teaching Spanish in Crane’s Upper School. I completed a Master’s of Education at California Lutheran University in May of 2007. I love teaching because each day brings something new. I especially love teaching a foreign language because it helps students realize the power of communication and that when you learn another language a whole new world opens up to you.
Upper School Spanish Teacher
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My time at Crane began over twenty years ago as a five-year-old kindergartener, and that is when I discovered I was destined to be a teacher! I am so thankful to be back at this amazing school doing what I love most. To pursue my dream of becoming a teacher, I left the California Coast to attend Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where I double majored in Sociology and Elementary Education. After graduating, I taught for several years at a Spanish immersion elementary school in Nashville before returning to Santa Barbara and joining the Crane community. I live in the foothills on an avocado ranch and spend my free time baking and designing cakes.
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From the moment I took my first education course, I knew that teaching was my passion. After receiving my bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and Sociology, I moved from my hometown of Seattle to Santa Barbara to be closer to my significant other. We love to travel, play tennis, and cheer on our favorite sports teams.
In 2015, I completed one of my lifelong goals and received my Masters in Education at Antioch University. School is a second home for me. I love getting the opportunity to teach kids how to love learning each day. For me, learning looks like active, focused fun and it occurs in a safe, empathic, and joyful environment. Crane is a special place - I am grateful that I get to work with such wonderful colleagues, families, and students. I am just so thrilled to be here!
1st grade co-teacher
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I have been teaching art and design and working in the multi-media industry for 20 years. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts and minor in Science Communications from UCSC, I spent two years at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena specializing in illustration, environmental design, and industrial design. Since 1997, I have worked as a freelance designer for many entertainment companies including DreamWorks. I have taught courses in design, multimedia, and computer-based design at Santa Monica and Santa Barbara community colleges for ten years. I have also spent the last 15 years developing visual arts and design curricula for K-12 students at the Music and Arts Conservatory of Santa Barbara and have taught for the Santa Barbara Unified School District since 2006. I have developed classes in 3D design and fabrication, architecture, nature of materials, and visual communications, and have focused on interdisciplinary courses uniting arts and technologies. I am also an expert educator in visual communication software. I love designing projects and getting kids to create in ways that make them learn core skills and essential tools.
When I am not teaching others, I am busy making some new creation. I have built my own sailboat, a massive playhouse for my children, and replica 19th century rocking horses. I enjoy working in many different media: wood, glass, paper, metal, and food. My artwork was recently featured in an exhibition on handcrafted toys at the Maloof Museum.
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I used to volunteer in my daughter’s elementary school class, and I got a real kick out of helping kids with math. After twenty years in the fast-paced and exciting software industry, I was looking for a change. I walked across the park to our neighborhood elementary school and asked the principal how I could help with their math instruction. I worked at La Patera and Isla Vista school for a year and fell in love with teaching math. I found out about the Crane Math Specialist position totally by accident. I was developing a proposal to obtain funding for a summer math program for disadvantaged kids, and in my Google search for “Math Specialist”, the Crane job posting popped up!
Lower School Math Specialist
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I was working at Cesar Chavez Chavez Charter School, where both of my daughters attended school. My older daughter was in 6th grade when we first heard about Crane. Her teacher had set up a parent meeting, and Debbie, the admissions director at the time, came out and gave a presentation. We instantly fell in love with Crane. My husband and I knew that Crane was the perfect fit for our daughter. Our family has been part of the Crane community and has been involved since 2008. In 2011, Crane created the Registrar position, and I was approached with an offer that I couldn't refuse. After working at Cesar Chavez for 6 years, I left and joined Crane's team. I feel extremely lucky to be part of the Crane community both as a parent and as staffulty. One of the many things I enjoy about Crane is that everyone knows each other's name. I have gotten to know almost every single parent and student and have formed special bonds with our Crane community and I believe that's what makes our school so special. Everyone who steps onto this campus is welcomed with open arms and smiling faces!
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New York City’s public library branch on Fifth Avenue was one of my favorite places as a child. We went there as a family and explored books, reading together in that grand palace of ideas. Afterwards, we’d stroll through Central Park and talk about what we’d discovered that day. Literacy and learning felt effortless to me. Yet throughout my schooling, I saw some classmates cringe when it was their turn to read aloud. In high school, my bright, hard-working best friend struggled through reading and spelling assignments. Why was that?
Witnessing the learning struggles of others inspired the questions I sought answers to and the profession I chose. I earned a B.A. in English and cultural anthropology, teaching credential, and Language Development Specialist certification from UCSB, then an M.A. in composition from UCI. I later completed training in Lindamood-Bell and Slingerland reading methodologies to further refine my teaching practice.
I began my teaching career in Germany, then taught English and ESL at a rigorous college prep boarding school for 13 years. The range of my students fascinated me, and in 1999 I was recruited to design the school’s first-ever learning support program. I successfully directed it for six years while also teaching composition and literature at the community college level. I’ve served as one of Crane’s learning specialists since 2005, where it’s my yearly pleasure to help students build literacy and learning skills while they experience a joyful education.
Lower School Learning Specialist
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I first experienced Crane at the age of 5 when my parents decided to enroll me in Kindergarten. At Fourth Grade I transferred to Laguna Blanca, and continued what I now refer to as my "tour of area schools" having attended All Saints, El Montecito, Montecito Union, Crane Country Day School, Laguna Blanca School, Thacher School, Santa Barbara High School, and Laguna Blanca School (again). Little did I know this tour would serve me well in the field of independent school admissions as it gave me a unique perspective and understanding of what it means to find the right "educational fit" for each child.
After attending college in New York and a brief stint as a publicist for a book publisher I returned to Santa Barbara to work in the admissions office at Laguna Blanca where I served in various capacities including Director of Admission before taking the leap to move to Austin, Texas where I worked in higher education and served as Admission Director for a PreK-8 Independent Catholic School.
So 34 years later, I am enjoying my second journey at Crane. I have found a few familiar faces and a whole host of new ones eager to re-connect me with Crane traditions and share exciting additions and innovations. I am doing what I love in a school where I discovered the joy of learning and consider it a privilege to welcome families to Crane where learning is challenging, creative, expansive, sometimes messy, joyous, and full of wonder.
Director of Admission
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I arrived at Crane Country Day in the fall of 2002. I grew up on the Mesa and later on the Riviera of Santa Barbara. I loved to look out over the city when it was foggy and see the Arlington tower popping out and hear my mother playing Debussy on the piano. She was a music teacher for 30 years. I attended Marymount and had Dave Williams (Development Director Debbie Williams’ husband) as my Third Grade teacher! My father was the Vice President at Santa Barbara City College and encouraged me to take drawing and painting classes there while I was at Santa Barbara High School. Downtown Santa Barbara looked very different in the early 80's. My love of thrift stores began while walking on State St. with my high school buddies looking for vintage treasures.
As a lover of contrast and change, I moved from sweet little Santa Barbara to New York City to attend The Cooper Union. Cooper fostered a love of interdisciplinary and collaborative learning in me. One of my favorite classes was called "chair," where a team of one engineer, one architect, and an artist had to spend a semester together designing and building a chair! I received my B.F.A. in Sculpture and Drawing in 1989. Missing the ocean and access to nature I decided to do my graduate work at UC Santa Barbara. It was there that I blended my sculpture with installation and performance art that led to various public art commissions and exhibitions. I was on the verge of moving to Romania on a Fulbright Scholarship when I met and married my husband Tripp Ridge. We have had many adventures together and share a love of camping, travel, dirtbikes and our two boys, C-Mo and Boo. We feel blessed that they have attended Crane since Pre-First (that's what it was called back then). We just completed a very big adventure around the world on a year-long sabbatical. We began in Bali where I worked at The Green School on an interdisciplinary art installation. From there we went to Lombok and the Gilli Islands in Indonesia and then spent about a month in the following locations: Sri Lanka (where we rented a farm) India, Vietnam (where I worked at two other community schools), Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand, and from there went to South America and lived on a nature preserve near Playas, Ecuador, for the final three months. We now reside in the charming town of Carpinteria and live on a 11-acre farm where in the course of a walk out the front door you can hear a mule bay, pick strawberries for shortcake, sneak through a maze of black bamboo, and climb on a rusted 1957 Chevy covered in mustard flower.
I have taught art in both public and private schools and museums for almost 24 years. I view teaching is an extension of my art and I see each day as a living, breathing work in progress. After moving to the farm, joining Crane has been the best move I have ever made.
Upper School Art Teacher
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