Dr. Charlene A. Wrighton
Director, Safari Learning® Academy
Co-Author/President/CEO Zoo-phonics®, Inc.
Dr. Char has had a long career in education spanning from 1972 to the present. Actually she has had three careers! She taught special needs students for over 21 years. In 1984 (overlapping with her teaching career) she and her sister Gigi developed the Zoo-phonics® Multisensory Language Arts Program. In 1993 she retired from teaching to devote full time development and promotion of Zoo-phonics®. Zoo-phonics® has gone across the country and the world to become an international program, and is translated into 3 other languages (Arabic, Spanish and Danish).
Char always dreamed of opening a preschool/toddler learning center where Zoo-phonics® would be the highlighted curriculum. In 2007 this dream became a reality with the opening of the Safari Preschool and Day Care Center in Sonora, California.
Char holds five teaching credentials and four degrees including a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) Instructional Leadership, a Master’s degree, an Administrative Credential, and a Child Development Program Director’s Certificate. She was a California Mentor Teacher for two years for the Tuolumne County Special Education Department, was awarded Woman of the Year for work with disabled, elderly and homeless, and Teacher of the Year for Tuolumne County Special Education Department. Recently she was voted Tuolumne County Chamber of Commerce’s “Entrepreneur of the Year.”
Char has been married to Bill for 45 years. She has three grown children (great in-laws) and six grandchildren.
Kathleen “Katie” Edwards
Director & Business Manager, Safari Learning® Academy
Katie was born and raised in Groveland, California. After graduating from Tioga High School she attended Columbia College to study Child Development. In 2007, Katie helped to open Safari Learning® Academy where she taught the toddler program for the first year.
After that, Katie stopped teaching to take over the finances, human resources and handles the overall management of the Academy.
Katie has literally grown up with Zoo-phonics® – traveling all over the U.S. and many parts of world to share Zoo-phonics®. Her love for children and teaching was established early on, but especially after having the opportunity to teach children in different countries Zoo-phonics® as well as training workshops for teachers.
Katie has two beautiful and precocious children, Marcus Edwards (born in December 2008) and Gwendolin (born in August 2013). Katie’s hobbies are having adventures with her kids, having fun with friends, cooking, traveling, putting on parties, and reading.
Katie loves what she does and is grateful for the opportunities that she gets every day to work with children, parents and teachers.
Assistant Director & Lead Preschool Teacher, Safari Learning® Academy
Ali was born and raised in Dublin, CA. This year she moved to Twain Harte, after marrying the love of her life.
Ali attended Dublin High School through independent study, and was able to graduate a year early. She took advantage of that time by going to Diablo Valley College, volunteering at her local church in Dublin, and nannying for several families. After that, she worked at Valley Christian Preschool for two years. Ali received her AA degree in History, and a certificate for Early Childhood Education from DVC. She hopes to transfer in the future to be able to pursue her dreams of becoming a junior high school history teacher.
Ali found her love for working with children when she was 14 years old after taking a month long mission trip to South Africa. After that trip, she came back knowing she wanted to serve children and took every step she could to follow that dream.
Ali is a passionate person that loves the environment, history, children, animals, and reading. In her spare time, you can find her at the beach, at a lake, playing with her puppy, learning new things, reading, or riding horses.