Ali Cardoza – Assistant Director, Lead Preschool Teacher
Ali was born and raised in Dublin, CA. 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.
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.
Beth Sansom – Preschool Teacher
Beth grew up in the California East Bay after moving from her birth place of Chicago Heights, IL.
She graduated from Tennyson High School then received her first AA degree in Commercial Art and a second AA degree in Early Childhood Development from Chabot College. She continued to take photography and fine art classes, figure drawing and oil painting for fun, and took American Sign Language.
At first Beth thought she would follow in her dad’s footsteps in Advertising but hated it! So she proceeded with Early Childhood Development. Thirty some years later she is still at it!
As a child her family camped and spent many happy times locally in the Sierra foothills and mountains. She fell in love with this area and always felt more at home here. She felt “homesick” whenever she had to return to the Bay Area.
Beth always knew she wanted to live here. Finally, after a divorce, she decided to make the move. It was very scary not having a job or knowing a soul. But she was blessed by finding a tiny cottage for rent owned by a Sonora family. It even came with a rent-a-teen and a rent-a-dog.
At the time she was doing In Home Care for hospice patients and the elderly. She really loved that work and met many wonderful people. Three years ago she moved back to Hayward to assist her own elderly mother. After her mom’s death, Beth returned to her sweet little home here in the Mother Lode.
Currently she is active at Calvary Chapel and enjoys gardening, camping, taking nature hikes, fishing and painting in watercolors, acrylics and oils. She is very grateful to be living her dream here in Sonora!
Jean Kriz – Preschool Teacher
Jean has been working with children for 12 years as an instructional assistant at an elementary school. She has worked with children in after school care, as well as with the reading specialist. Jean’s family moved to Sonora from Sacramento about a year ago and are very much enjoying country living. She has two grown children and one child still in high school. She spends her free time camping at the ocean with her family and my dog.
Karin Boklund – Teacher
Karin has lived in Sonora since 1999. She has always wanted to teach preschool children. She started her adventure in 2005 and 13 years later, after very much hard work and determination, she graduated with her AS degree in Child Development. In her spare time she likes to go to the lake, go hiking, horseback riding, doing yard work, and spending time with family. Karin’s favorite part of teaching is watching the children grow as and learn.
Shanti Zenuni- Teacher
Shanti’ grew up in California’s San Fernando Valley. Knowing from a young age she wanted to be either a seismologist or a teacher. After surviving the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the decision to pursue teaching was an easy one.
After high school, she worked at Home Depot and traveled the world until beginning at College of the Canyons in 2001. In 2004, Shanti’ moved to Orange County and transferred to Irvine Valley College. In the same year, she also began at Montessori on the Lake in Lake Forest as an after school daycare teacher. In 2006, while on the Deans List, she graduated Cum Laude with an AA. She also moved up to an assistant K-1 teacher at Montessori.
Shanti’ transferred to Cal State University Fullerton while working full time at Montessori. In 2007, she was on the Deans List for a 2nd time. With over 60 ECE units, Shanti’ graduated Cum Laude with a BS in Child and Adolescent Development. In 2009, she attended Montessori training and became a Lead teacher at AppleTree in Lake Forest.
After 8 years, in 2012, Shanti’ moved to Bakersfield to help her family with her Uncle and Father who were both quadriplegic. After the passing of her Uncle in 2014, she returned to her love of teaching at KinderCare in Santa Clarita as a PreK Kindergarten Assistant teacher and Lead School Age afternoon teacher ages 5-11. That same year in Santa Clarita, she met the love of her life, a wildland firefighter for the Stanislaus Forest named Ritchie. The next year in 2015, at the “Little Red Church” in Sonora, he proposed. After a long distance relationship, in 2020, Shanti’ finally moved to Sonora to be with her fiancé, which lead her to her position at Safari Learning Academy.
Shanti loves her doggie Ceeatee and her fiancé Ritchie equally and is looking forward to planning her wedding for the end of next year. She loves to sew, bake, clean, jigsaw puzzles, snowboard, hike, fish, and is a gamer.
After 17 years teaching, Shanti’ absolutely, without a doubt, loves to teach.
Ashliegh Bain- Teacher
Ashliegh was born and raised in Northern California with her two brothers. She spent most of her life in Turlock and attended Pitman High School. Ashliegh spent her free time babysitting and looking after children, at family gatherings. In her last year of high school, Ashliegh took her first child development class.
After graduating in 2005, Ashliegh started attending classes at Modesto Junior College that same summer. She worked her way through college at the on-site preschool, and earned her Associate Science Degree in Child Development. She simultaneously earned a black preparatory belt in Shou’ Shu’ martial arts.
In 2011 Ashliegh met her husband, who is also her best friend. Since earning her degree, she has built up her experience by working as a Teacher in a private preschool, a Lead Preschool Teacher for a state preschool program, and as a paraprofessional for a public school district.
Just This year Ashliegh and her husband relocated to Sonora to be closer to his family, and she began teaching at Safari Learning Academy. Her favorite parts of the day are all of the break-throughs and connections that she makes with the children in her care. Ashliegh loves sitting on the beach, painting, reading, relaxing with her husband and their three cats, and pretending to go to the zoo in the playground jeep, with her students.
Jacqueline Schram- Teacher
Jacqueline is a happy wife and a mom. Her son is in high school and her daughter in junior high. She loves being involved with her children’s school and their extracurricular activities.
Throughout Jacqueline‘s adolescence she was very involved with younger children, babysitting and volunteering with basic care and also recreational sports. Jacqueline worked in the accounting field while attending college where she discovered that her passion was working with preschool age children. She obtained her Associate Teaching Certificate for Early Childhood Development and began working as a three-year-old teacher.
After the birth of her daughter, Jacqueline worked for Head Start for a year then went back into accounting type work. While she enjoyed accounting for 10 years, her love for children and passion to teach them lead her back to the classroom, specifically at Safari Learning Academy where her daughter attended preschool.
Jacqueline appreciates the curriculum and structure offered here at Safari Learning Academy and is excited to be a member of the Safari team! She enjoys helping with toddlers and infants also and thrives to make a difference with each child she encounters.
Jodi Gates – Lead Toddler Teacher
Jodi Gates was born in Iowa City, Iowa. She moved to Antioch, California with her parents and younger brother when she was 3 Years old.
After graduating high school she attended California State University working towards a degree in psychology. While attending college she worked for the Head Start program in schools all over Sacramento County. When she moved back to Antioch she began working for Starbucks Coffee Company and The Family Stress Center based in Concord, CA. While at the Family Stress Center she mentored youth with mental illness. While this job was extremely rewarding she moved on to work at the Fine Arts Preschool in Walnut Creek, CA and continued at Starbucks. In the meantime, her boyfriend, now husband, applied for a job in Tuolumne County. He received an IT position with the county and they moved to Sonora.
Jodi transferred to Sonora with Starbucks and continued to work for the company for seven years. The perks were great. She got married to Jamie and they had two little girls, Julia and Jenna. After Jenna was born Jodi became part of the team at Safari Learning Academy, the perks here are even better. She loves teaching children and helping them to find their voice. Jodi became the Head Toddler Teacher in the toddler program in 2015.
When Jodi is not working she loves to spend time with her family. They love hiking and camping. Every year Jodi and her husband hike to the top of half dome in Yosemite.
Carissa Davis – Toddler Teacher
Carissa was born in Roseville, California, but raised here in Tuolumne County. She has always had a love for children. Carissa is a mom to a wonderful little girl. When Carissa is not at work she loves spending time with her family and truly loves animals. Carissa loves her students and shows her dedication to them by showering them with love throughout the day.
Vanessa Dean – Infant Teacher
Vanessa was born and raised in Sonora, CA. She attended both Summerville and Sonora High School, but graduated early from Gold Rush Charter School with a 4.0 GPA. Vanessa is currently taking her final Early childhood classes online. Vanessa has been in the work force since the age of 16. She began as pool attendant at the Black Oak Casino Resort, eventually moving up to be a barista, and worked for the casino for 3 years. She is the oldest of 6 siblings so taking care of young ones comes naturally. In her free time she loves being outside, with her boyfriend, or just relaxing at home with her cats/family.
Cheyanne Busch- Infant Teacher
Cheyanne Busch was born and raised in Sonora, Ca. She attended Summerville Union High School where she did cheerleading all four years, editor of her yearbook and graduated class of 2018. After high school, Cheyanne Columbia Community College where she majored in graphic design to follow her passion of art. While taking graphic design class she stared babysitting for several families, and soon got a job at Safari Learning in the primary class for their summer program. Cheyanne decided that her love for children was greater than her passion for art. She changed her major to Child Development. Cheyanne has just finished her spring semester with 12 units to be a teacher. She plans on continuing her Child Development major in fall 2020. She intends on taking all the child development classes that Columbia has to offer to further her knowledge and growth in child development.
ToniLee Faughnan – Lead Primary Teacher
Toni grew up in the East Bay Area and went to Modesto Jr. College and Humboldt State University here in California, as well as University of Mary Washington in Virginia. She has always had a love for working with children and her favorite quote is “never lose your childlike enthusiasm” (which really shows in her methods of teaching). Toni also has a great love for music and is an accomplished singer songwriter and performer. Toni considers music the greatest tool for learning, and incorporates music into most her lessons, even art, Spanish, reading, or even PE! Toni has worked in the past as a musician, teacher and as a Program Director for an after school program. She has dedicated herself to becoming a life-long educator and learner, and she strives to instill a similar desire in all of the students with whom she works, with lots of positive reinforcement.
Jamie Bunch- Preschool Aide
Jamie was born in San Mateo, California, but grew up in Tracy. She graduated from Tracy High School, and after high school, she spent a few years working as a server and bartender. Jamie moved to Copperopolis last summer after marrying her wonderful husband. She enjoys camping, being with family and friends, and restoring things. She has been a long-term nanny for a couple of families in the valley and was very excited to take her first “school” job here at Safari Learning Academy. She hopes to start school next year to become a preschool teacher in the future.
Sidnie Joseph- Toddler Aide
Sidnie was born and raised in Tuolumne county. She graduated Summerville high playing 3 sports and doing ffa. Her senior year of high school she went to cosmetology school at Sonora high while attending Summerville. Her career goal is to be a Labor & Delivery nurse because she has a big love for kids and the medical field. Right now she is going to school in Murphys to become an EMT. After she wants to further her studies in becoming an RNC in Labor & Delivery. She has been around kids all of her life with friends having siblings, siblings of her own, and started babysitting at a young age. She loves hanging with her friends and being outdoors kayaking or going on runs.
Hailey Mittry- Kitchen Coordinator
Hailey was born and raised in Tuolumne County. She graduated from Sonora High, and is currently attending Columbia College to get her A.S in Allied Health. Hailey is happily married, and has 3 dogs! Hailey is the oldest of her entire family of kids, and absolutely loves children! When she’s not working, she loves being outdoors, finding new adventures and being with family and friends.
Diana Sanders – Substitute
Diana’s training as a teacher started in Menlo Park where she went through the Miss Lorraine’s Modeling School where she taught skin care and exercise classes.
She continued to educate herself and attended Foothill College majoring in Computer Science. She ran a small clothing business while attending San Francisco University majoring in Broadcasting. She then began to study Opera at San Jose State, taking music classes, working full time and recording songs.
Diana started her own talent agency, found work for bands in the Bay Area and created a small circuit in the Motherlode. She was able to create jobs for models, musicians and dancers.
It wasn’t until she became a parent that she realized how much she enjoyed watching little bright eyes discover the world. Diana volunteered in all of her children’s preschools and joined the Sonora Parent Nursery. This encouraged her to go back to college and learn about child development. She worked for Mother Goose Preschool in Sonora, Pooh Corner in Arnold, and the Superintendent of Schools as a substitute Teacher’s Aide. She also started a charity for enrichment after school and is attending an on-line college; Grand Canyon University.
Diana has worked with children for over 15 years and has received an award from Ed Minium for filling a need in the community. Diana has gained a great deal of experience and insight on how to help very young children learn.