The La Jolla Country Day School faculty, administration and staff are strong, diverse and talented individuals who have been drawn together for a common purpose. Ours is a vibrant community with an exciting charge—to create a stronger, better place where our children and those of future generations can grow to become excellent individuals, citizens and adventurers of the world.
Below is a list of the administration, staff and faculty. To locate a member, click on the drop-down menus below to search by division, department or last name. Faculty and staff bios are also available below.
“I inspire greatness for a better world by nurturing and encouraging my students to always try their best and to learn from their mistakes. I assist students in developing grit, perseverance and independence.”
Molly Saenz believes school should be a fun, enriching and safe environment where the needs of every student can be met. Ms. Saenz’s primary role as an associate teacher is supporting the second-grade teachers in providing each child an excellent education.
Before beginning her career in education, Ms. Saenz lived in San Francisco, where she worked at the corporate headquarters of Williams-Sonoma. When she discovered her passion for teaching, she moved home to San Diego to obtain her teaching credential. Ms. Saenz was thrilled to begin her first teaching job as a kindergarten assistant at La Jolla Country Day School in 2004. Ms. Saenz has also worked as an associate in fourth grade and a lead teacher in third grade; she loves her current role as associate teacher in second grade.
Ms. Saenz loves spending time with her husband, Brad, her children, Ben (6) and Cameron (3), and her extended family in San Diego. She enjoys the beach and cheering on her University of Michigan Wolverines.
Educator, US History and World Language; Coach - Cross Country
“As a teacher, coach, advisor and trip leader at La Jolla Country Day School, I provide opportunities for student experience, knowledge, growth and leadership in the classroom, on local running trails, and on hiking trails in Utah. I support and encourage students as they discover the greatness around them and within themselves.”
Scott Sanders has worn many hats during his tenure at LJCDS. Currently, he teaches French and History, coaches cross country, and leads the EE trip to Southwest Utah. His two children, Ethan ’21 and Logan ’22, are both Country Day “lifers” now enjoying college in Oregon and New York.
Mr. Sanders has coached the cross country teams since 1999 and has been head coach since 2001. During this time, the teams have won a combined 18 CIF and 15 Coastal Conference championships and finished as runners-up seven times at CIF and nine times in the conference. The women’s team has competed at the State meet 12 times, with four top-10 finishes. The men’s team has made 17 appearances, with five top-10 finishes, including third place in 2012 and 2013. Coach Sanders was named San Diego section Boys Coach of the Year in 2013. A season highlight for Coach Sanders is the annual Alumni Run.
Summers as a camp counselor inspired Mr. Sanders to pursue a teaching career. After a junior year in Paris and graduation from Washington & Lee University, he began teaching at a boarding school in Maine. A master’s in French from Middlebury College soon followed. Before joining the LJCDS faculty in 1998, Mr. Sanders taught in Los Angeles and also spent a year teaching in Colorado, where he developed an abiding love for the Denver Broncos, trail running, and skiing. Additionally, he likes to travel with his family, hang out with his dogs, take lots of pictures, read, hike, and eat sushi.
“I inspire greatness by bringing nearly 40 years of teaching experience and a wealth of tried-and-true strategies and methodologies to the classroom. My students are motivated to learn mathematics in an atmosphere filled with wonder, joy, humor, warmth, teamwork, diligence and compassion. I embrace the liberating academic freedom, exceptional collegiality, and scholarly intensity of the LJCDS learning community. I delight in working with the greatest faculty, staff, students, and parents in all of San Diego.”
Dave Schall graduated with high honors from the University of California, Davis, in 1983 with a Bachelor of Science in mathematics. After earning his California State Teaching Credential at San Diego State University, he taught for 18 years at Oceanside High School. Since 2003, Mr. Schall has spent all, or parts, of his tenure at LJCDS serving as a teacher, academic league coach, mathematics department chair, senior and sophomore class dean, grade-level coordinator, upper school registrar, and assistant to the director of service-learning.
Mr. Schall has been married since 1986 to his wife, Kim, and they have raised five wonderful adult children: Amy, Zach, Alex, and twins Emily and Sarah. Dave and Kim are also the proud parents to fur babies Blummer, an anxious yet goofy golden retriever, and Beesly, a boisterous and mischievous chocolate lab. Mr. Schall and his wife are also proud grandparents of a baby girl, Rhea Louise Salmon. With the addition of Rhea, the Schall home continues to burst at the seams with activity, joy, craziness and laughter.
“I inspire greatness for a better world by practicing a deep sense of gratitude for the simplest and most meaningful things in our lives. It is not what we have, but who we have that matters. By modeling philanthropy for our community, I hope to inspire those around me on the importance of giving back to the people and places that have made a difference in our lives. Using love, joy and gratitude as my compass, I aim to grow the culture of philanthropy at our school and honor Louise Balmer’s belief that school is life, not preparation for it.”
Amy Schwager grew up in Denver, Colorado, where she experienced firsthand what a profound privilege it is to attend an independent school. These educational opportunities transformed her into a lifelong learner and left an imprint on her heart that will last forever. Mrs. Schwager’s passion and admiration for LJCDS grew when her sons became Torreys in 2019 and 2021. She joined the philanthropy team in 2022 as the annual giving manager.
Mrs. Schwager began her journey in the non-profit sector in 2004, dedicating herself to the Susan G. Komen 3-Day, a 60-mile event series that has raised more than $855 million. During her time at the 3-Day, she recruited and led thousands of participants and volunteers. Mrs. Schwager enjoyed the process of cultivating lasting relationships and stewarding individuals to invest their time, energy and financial support. She has a keen understanding of what inspires people to donate their time and money, and what motivates people to remain engaged and committed to a cause.
When Mrs. Schwager is not working, you will find her at the beach with her boys, Brooks ’26 and Bryn ’31, and their adorable golden retriever, Bear, or on the sidelines at her boy’s lacrosse or hockey games.
“I inspire greatness for a better world by fostering a positive learning environment that promotes a growth mindset model and supports all learning needs.”
Samantha “Sam” Severe is a long time member of the LJCDS community. She is an alumna and an LJCDS “Lifer,” first joining campus back in 2002 in Ms. Stickles Pre-K class. Following her Upper School graduation, Ms. Severe spent the next four summers as a member of the LJCDS Summer Programs Staff working as a counselor and summer school educator. She was beyond excited to rejoin the community full time as an assistant educator in the Lower School.
Ms. Severe earned her Bachelors’s in Elementary and Special Education from Boise State University. She also has two Teaching Credentials, one in Multiple Subjects Elementary Education and one in Education Specialist (Special Education). During her time as an undergraduate student, Ms. Severe spent two years as an infant/toddler teacher at a private daycare, volunteered at local elementary schools, and spent one year teaching in a sixth-grade classroom and a special education resource room.
Ms. Severe loves to spend time with her family, friends and her three dogs, Denver, Henry and Ozzy. Her hobbies include art, interior design, watching docuseries, listening to podcasts and baking. Ms. Severe is most excited about returning to the LJCDS campus, working with former teachers and new colleagues, and giving back to the community that she truly considers her home.
Educator, US Humanities; Student Publications Coordinator
“As a teacher of literature, I have the opportunity to talk with students about how texts connect to their lives. I help them find their own voices through writing, presentations and discussion. The conversations of the class—the ones that connect to the students’ lives, their dreams, and hopefully through which they find inspiration—serve as the key way in which I can inspire greatness for a better world, starting with the small world of an English classroom at La Jolla Country Day School.”
Deborah Shaul has been teaching at LJCDS since 1997. She taught in private high schools and in several colleges in the Washington, D.C. area before moving to San Diego. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English and communications, with a French minor from the University of Michigan, and a master’s in American literature from the American University in Washington, D.C. She is ABD (all but dissertation) in American studies, working toward a Ph.D. at the University of Maryland. American studies makes connections between literature and the historical context in which it was written, and Ms. Shaul regularly makes those connections in her classroom.
Ms. Shaul created the American studies program in 2009.
“I inspire greatness for a better world by providing a safe environment for the students to question, explore and fail, during their learning journey. As Plutarch said, ‘The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.’”
Josephine Shieh believes that children are naturally curious and their desire to explore shapes their understanding of the world. Ms. Shieh strives to provide support and guidance for her students, encouraging them to think critically with a growth mindset to become positive citizens.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, Ms. Shieh went on to earn her master’s degree in education at the University of Pennsylvania. She started her career in 2001 as a fourth-grade teacher at The Baldwin School near Philadelphia. She fell in love with the inquisitiveness of the 9- and 10-year-olds and has been teaching primarily fourth graders ever since at both Campbell Hall Episcopal in North Hollywood and the Gillispie School in La Jolla.
In her free time, Ms. Shieh enjoys watching her children play sports, including baseball and soccer. She also likes to sit back and relax with children’s literature in hand. Occasionally, she can be found in the kitchen dabbling in baking.
“I inspire greatness for a better world by using theater and the arts as a tool for building connections and fostering empathy. For both young performers in my productions and spectators of all ages, I call on our community to recognize the intrinsic humanity showcased in our plays. Witnessing and understanding shared values, struggles, goals and fears helps all of us to foster new relationships with our neighbors.”
Jim Short, Ph.D., believes strongly that arts education is integral to developing the whole human. Whether the student has a passion for storytelling, a penchant for Shakespeare, a thirst to make others laugh and cry, or simply a desire to build an ensemble with their peers, theater offers a special place to nurture the soul inside of every individual. As a theater educator and director, Dr. Short focuses on the process of theater-making to help students reach their potential as both artists and young people.
Dr. Short earned his doctorate degree in theater and drama from the University of California San Diego (UCSD), where both his practice and research focused heavily on theater with youth, comic studies, masking and embodiment, and performances of risk. Before joining LJCDS in 2022, he taught as a lecturer and adjunct professor at UCSD and San Diego State University.
In his free time, Dr. Short enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter and exploring new hiking trails across the state.
“I inspire greatness for a better world by creating and maintaining a safe and welcoming environment for our community. I work to mitigate risk, manage crises and employ strategic leadership for the overall protection of LJCDS facilities, faculty, staff, parents, guardians, students and visitors.”
Prior to joining LJCDS in 2022 as director of security, Adam Shubsda was a director of public safety at the college and university level, as well as vice president of security in the private sector. He spent time as a teacher, coach and adjunct professor in kindergarten through graduate-level programs. In addition, he was a commanding officer at the New Jersey State Police in West Trenton, NJ, where he served for over 25 years.
Mr. Shubsda earned a master's degree from the School of Public and Global Affairs and a bachelor's degree in public and emergency services management from Fairleigh Dickinson University. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety School of Police Staff and Command.
In his free time, Mr. Shubsda enjoys spending time with family, especially his two granddaughters.
Educator, US History; Director of the Center for Excellence in Citizenship
“I inspire greatness by educating our students on the importance of civic engagement. In a free society, we have the constitutional right to say what is on our minds. As such, we can make the choice to speak truth or falsehoods, to speak laudably or reprehensibly. It is our obligation to seek out the facts and to respond in a way that recognizes our own as well as others’ sense of dignity.”
As the history department chair, Jonathan Shulman is passionate about promoting civic engagement. He develops partnerships with civic organizations, including the City Club of San Diego and the San Diego Historical Center, and coordinates off-campus and travel opportunities for students. Mr. Shulman is head teacher–coach of the Torrey Mock Trial Team, a program that is recognized as one of the best in San Diego County.
Mr. Shulman graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Tufts University and a master’s in war studies from King’s College London. He was the first K–12 educator to be elected president of the California World History Association, he is an active partner with EUROCLIO—the European Association of History Educators, and he has served as an AP World History exam reader for the College Board since 2010.
Before joining LJCDS in 2003, Mr. Shulman taught at the American School of Milan, in Italy; the Beijing Film Academy, in China; and the Greenhill School, in Dallas, Texas. He previously worked as chief of staff to the Appropriations Sub-Committee Chair in the Maryland House of Delegates.
A fan of the movies, Mr. Shulman was the co-producer and director of Minyan in Kaifeng, a documentary about the modern-day descendants of an ancient Chinese Jewish community. The film, narrated by Leonard Nimoy, played at several international Jewish film festivals to great acclaim.
“I inspire greatness for a better world by identifying and facilitating resources to provide the best educators and curriculum at La Jolla Country Day School. I also believe in providing excellent customer service and treating fellow employees, parents, students and vendor partners with dignity.”
Dave Sigal is a career accountant and finance professional with more than 30 years of experience. He joined LJCDS in February 2013 as the school’s controller where he worked with his mentor, former CFO Bruce Nelson. Mr. Sigal became the CFO when Bruce retired in June 2014.
Prior to joining LJCDS, Mr. Sigal spent three years as the CFO at the Jewish Federation of San Diego County. Before that, he worked for six years at USA Federal Credit Union as the vice president of finance.
Mr. Sigal earned his Bachelor of Science in finance from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and has also passed the CPA exam.
Mr. Sigal is a San Diego native. He met his wife, Liz, in third grade, and they had their first date 20 years later after reuniting at their 10-year high school reunion. They have a daughter, Rachel, who studied animation at the Laguna College of Art and Design and is currently working at Bento Box Entertainment as a storyboard artist.
In his spare time, he enjoys golfing, reading and spending time with his family.
“I inspire greatness for a better world by fostering a strong sense of community, belonging and shared pride among generations of alumni. Being a member of the LJCDS community does not stop when you cross the stage on graduation day; it means always having a place to come home. As we say, ‘Once a Torrey, always a Torrey!’”
Katelyn Sigeti ’06 joined the LJCDS community in 1993, as a kindergartener. As an LJCDS lifer, she has called the school home for (quite literally) as long as she can remember. Ms. Sigeti considers it an enormous privilege to have grown up as a student in a community emphasizing intellectualism, social justice and relationships, and now has the opportunity to serve the very community that raised her. As alumni relations manager, she gets tremendous joy out of connecting generations of Torrey alumni to each other and to the alma mater they share.
Ms. Sigeti attended Boston University, where she spent a semester abroad studying in Madrid and a summer in Los Angeles interning at NBC. She earned a bachelor of science degree in film and television and a bachelor of arts degree in Hispanic language and literature. Before joining LJCDS, she worked in professional baseball for three major league teams and was also on the team at Yelp.
Ms. Sigeti’s passions lay in community service, travel and learning. She has also harbored a lifelong love of musical theater, all-things Disney and baseball. In her free time, you can find her at a baseball game, on the beach enjoying a good book, on a plane to visit friends and far off places, at a new ice cream establishment, or, of course, at Disneyland.
Educator, MS Design and Innovation; Coach - Golf
(858) 453-3440 x415
(858) 453-3440 x416
Long Term Substitute Educator, US World Language
Educator, US Humanities; US Coordinator for Diversity, Equity, and Culture
“I inspire greatness for a better world by honoring my students’ dignity and by nurturing their ideas and intellectual creativity. I enthusiastically cultivate the potential in each of my students, and I encourage them to embrace literature and philosophy as catalysts to reflect on the possibilities for our world.”
Robin Stewart has been teaching English at La Jolla Country Day School since 2004. Prior to LJCDS, Ms. Stewart taught at an independent school in Macon, Georgia, and as an adjunct for a San Diego Community College. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English literature with a concentration in peace and conflict studies from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, and her Master of Arts in African languages and literature from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
As a student, Ms. Stewart wrote poetry, played basketball and rowed crew. As a teacher, she continues to promote a love of poetry and a social conscience. She has served as a policy debate coach, facilitated the Amnesty International Club, and led student activities to celebrate diversity and global citizenship and promote equity and justice. As part of those responsibilities, Ms. Stewart has chaperoned LJCDS student representatives to the National Association of Independent School’s Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) for many years. She also facilitates the annual LJCDS Hope Conference, which is a student-led day of education and inspiration to embrace diversity with dignity and is modeled after SDLC.
Ms. Stewart is passionate about teaching sophomore English and senior English, including the senior elective World Beat: Literature of Africa and the African Diaspora, for which she is thrilled to utilize her graduate studies.
“I inspire greatness for a better world by being an example and role model to my students. I believe in treating everyone with dignity and working with others to create an atmosphere that is conducive to success. I hope my positive energy will, in turn, help students to use their passions to make a lasting impact on the world.”
Valerie Strocco joined LJCDS in 2019 as an academic coach in the Learning Resource Center where she works one-on-one with students and guides them in their endeavor to have their academic goals come to fruition. She creates a warm and welcoming environment where students can feel safe and comfortable to explore their thoughts and deepen their knowledge.
Ms. Strocco is a San Diego native. She graduated from the University of San Diego High School (now Cathedral Catholic High School) and attended the University of San Diego on a full soccer scholarship where she earned her bachelor’s degree in anthropology and a minor in philosophy.
She worked as the assistant director at a private learning center in La Jolla and has many years of experience working one-on-one with students identified with learning differences with a focus on test preparation and remediation for reading, writing and math. Ms. Strocco taught middle school social studies and math for four years and enjoys coaching club soccer for La Jolla Impact. She previously worked at LJCDS as a soccer coach and substitute teacher in Middle and Upper school.
“I inspire greatness by teaching students that it is not where you start, but where you finish. I teach students that success is not final, failure is not fatal, and that being able to push to the fullest potential as learners is what matters. I believe that through critical thinking, civil discourse and community building, our students can create a better classroom, LJCDS community and world.”
Ryan Sturgeon, M.Ed., joined the LJCDS community in 2022 as a Grade 8 United States history educator. He is proud to join LJCDS’ positive and inclusive environment as he creates a safe and structured environment where students can debate openly and learn about the perspectives of others.
Since 2014, Mr. Sturgeon has taught at multiple Title 1 schools in San Diego where he learned the importance of social justice, community service and creating positive classroom environments. Prior to teaching at LJCDS, Mr. Sturgeon taught AP Government, politics and economics for six years at Gompers Preparatory Academy. His courses focused on school-wide and community-based projects, as well as financial literacy, career readiness and the stock market. Mr. Sturgeon hopes to continue teaching these important lessons and life skills to his eighth-grade students at LJCDS.
Mr. Sturgeon moved from Chicago to earn a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of San Diego. He continued his postgraduate education at USD and earned a master’s in education in curriculum and instruction with a credential in secondary social studies.
Mr. Sturgeon enjoys spending time in La Jolla with his wife Shannon, who is also a member of the LJCDS family. He spends his free time traveling around the world, playing board games, and reciting Lord of the Rings, word for word.
“I inspire greatness for a better world by creating lifelong learners who strive to become curious and open-minded individuals in an ever-changing world. I model dignity by creating an inclusive environment with acceptance of all abilities in which students can thrive.”
Shannon Sturgeon, M.Ed., believes that every student matters. As a learning specialist in the Learning Resource Center, she works with students of various levels from all backgrounds in a one-on-one environment. She enjoys encouraging her students, reinforcing academic concepts and sharpening executive functioning skills, while creating a sense of belonging in and out of the classroom. Mrs. Sturgeon’s goal is to support the whole child as she connects each student to their learning community, including teachers, parents, staff, coaches and other students.
Mrs. Sturgeon’s career as an educator began by teaching special education in Massachusetts, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in education and psychology while playing Division 2 lacrosse at Assumption University. After moving across the country to sunny San Diego in 2012, she became a learning specialist in a private clinic before earning a Master of Education and a Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential from the University of San Diego. Before joining the team at LJCDS in 2022, Mrs. Sturgeon taught fourth and fifth grade and was a learning specialist and director of the learning center at Gillispie School.
In her free time, Mrs. Sturgeon enjoys reading, cooking, playing tennis and swimming. She also loves to travel, play board games, and watch the latest movies with her husband, Ryan, a fellow member of the LJCDS family.
“I inspire greatness by celebrating acts of kindness performed in the classroom. Using character education and encouraging students to think beyond themselves, they learn compassion and how to lend a helping hand. Acknowledging students’ efforts promotes self-esteem and makes them feel proud. It also encourages other students to seek out opportunities to do good deeds.”
Courtney Sullivan is a junior kindergarten teacher who loves teaching early childhood education, when children are gaining their independence and developing a love for learning. Ms. Sullivan strives to create an engaging and cooperative learning environment. Providing hands-on activities and including the interests of students allows them to be involved in the learning process and creates a passion for education. Ms. Sullivan also believes “it takes a village to raise a child” and encourages an open dialogue with parents and teachers to provide the best care for students.
Ms. Sullivan grew up in Hawaii and left the sun for the rain to get her Bachelor of Arts at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash. She gained a love for early childhood education working at a preschool in Hawaii. She joined the La Jolla Country Day School community in 2005 and has enjoyed working and learning from her peers in the Early Childhood Center.
Ms. Sullivan enjoys going to the beach, spending time with family and curling up with a good book.
“I inspire greatness by immersing my students in a foreign language and culture.”
Lillian Sung believes her experience and training have enabled her to evaluate diverse teaching styles from a unique perspective. In her own teaching, she strives to strike a balance between traditional and liberal methods. While Ms. Sung places a high value on maintaining classroom discipline and fostering hard work, she also tries to create an environment where students take joy in learning and feel comfortable participating in class. Ms. Sung appreciates the opportunity to give back to the community by sharing her knowledge and cultural heritage with students at La Jolla Country Day School.
Ms. Sung grew up in Taiwan, where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English. She came to the United States to pursue her master’s degree in linguistics, with a focus on teaching Chinese as a second language. She later received a California single-subject teaching credential in Mandarin. Prior to joining LJCDS in 2011, she worked as a Chinese instructor at Palomar College.
Ms. Sung’s favorite quote is by Scott Hayden: “Teachers have three loves: love of learning, love of learners and the love of bringing the first two loves together.”