Faculty

mental health in children

Mountain Valley educators inspire our students by role modeling the attitudes appropriate for learning and treating others with respect. They have the experience and expertise to meet the individual needs and challenges of our students with skill, compassion and understanding.


Kathleen Benson
School Director

Our School Director, Kathleen Benson, is a 35-year veteran teacher and school administrator as well as a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Education has been her life’s journey and encouraging significant outcomes for her students is her passion.

Ms. Benson has multiple credentials and qualifications and implements a strength-based, trauma-informed approach to working with the students at our Academy. With a strong emphasis on collaborative, supportive teamwork, she works with students, their families and School Districts to ensure that children are stabilized and learning in a way that is individualized to their needs. Kathleen has a B.A. in Counseling from Prescott College and an M.A. in Applied Behavioral Sciences from the Leadership Institute of Seattle.


Ruth Zilch
Assistant School Director 

Ruth attended California State University in Sacramento where she majored in Liberal Studies with an emphasis in Science. She also received an Education Specialist credential for Mild to Moderate disabilities from Brandman University.

Ruth began her teaching career as a substitute teacher at Pleasant Ridge School District before transitioning full time to Mountain Valley Academy. Here, Ruth likes to integrate science concepts with outdoor activities. Her students are always the first ones to make a name sign in wood-shop and to start beans and tomatoes in the garden.

Ruth’s commitment to students at Mountain Valley evolved into the administrative role she holds today as Assistant Director of Schools. Her strategy is to apply what she has learned to help mentor MVS teachers. Her core belief is that an effective school is the result of a “strong administrative staff.”


Sharon Loucks
School Administrator  

Sharon holds a Doctorate Degree in Educational Administration from the University of the Pacific, a Master’s Degree in Reading/Language Arts from Fresno Pacific College and a B. A. in Sociology from California State College at Los Angeles.

Sharon started as a high school English teacher, but has held many additional roles at County Offices of Education and School Districts. Currently, she assists Mountain Valley School primarily with the implementation of standards-based curriculum and professional development. She facilitates the School Accreditation (ACSWASC) process, coordinates professional development and guides curriculum development.

Sharon loves to get students reading. She promoted the Read Across Mountain Valley for guest storytellers, the use of novels to supplement History-Social Science courses and she helped start the Ranch Library.


Rick Beberg
Special Education Teacher

Rick has degrees from California State University at Sonoma and California State University at Chico and an Educational Specialist Credential for Mild to Moderate Disabilities from National University. He has joined in two successful Initial ACSWASC Reviews.

Rick Beberg knows residential services from a variety of perspectives. He has worked for Mountain Valley as a Mental Health Worker, House Supervisor, Residential Supervisor and Special Education Teacher in Sacramento and at the Ranch Campus.

Rick is an accomplished athlete. In 1976, after touring the United States, he was named the Foos-ball World Mixed Doubles Champion and Player of the Year. He has also been a Professional Snow Ski and Ski Patrol Instructor. Currently he teaches Pickle Ball locally.

Rick’s students are always active in sports and engaged in academics. Class discussions often explore a variety of perspectives in current issues in history and science. In the last three years he has helped six students receive high school diplomas and two students to pass the HiSet/GED examinations.


Casey Burge
Special Education Intern Teacher

Casey holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Nevada, Reno

Casey started his career at Mountain Valley in Residential services. He enjoys teaching History and Social Science. His students like reading about current events and debating questions such as: “What will be the impact of…” During the summer, Casey can be found taking students for wilderness hikes where he likes to identify plants and point out the effects of erosion.


Kathryn Miller
Special Education Teacher

Kathryn holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree with a minor in Spanish Literature and a minor in American Studies and a Master’s Degree in Education. In addition, she has an Education Specialist Credential from National University and a Multiple Subject Teaching and Waldorf Credential from Antioch New England University.

Before coming to Mountain Valley Academy, Kathryn worked as a special education teacher in non-public schools, home school programs, and public schools, including the Williams Academy, Vision in Education, and Sacramento Unified School District.

Kathryn loves to intrigue future scientists. To learn about energy, her class designed solar ovens to bake cookies. Kathryn probes students, “What would happen if we move the ovens from the classroom to outside?” Class experiments culminated with the First Annual Science Fair in Sacramento.  She is also known to broaden students’ awareness of world languages by translating common English expressions into Spanish, German and French.


Karen Seagraves
Special Education Teacher

Karen received a degree in English from California State University at Hayward, a Secondary Teaching Credential from California State University at San Francisco, and an Education Specialist credential for mild to moderate disabilities from California State University in Sacramento.

Karen’s life as a teacher has been a potpourri of educational experiences, in public and non-public school, in big cities, and small seacoast towns, foothill gold country, and now here at Mountain Valley.

Karen likes to promote reading in the classroom by offering a weekly trip to the Nevada City Public Library and making available current Nevada County Read Across America titles for students to read and discuss in small groups. In her free time, Karen likes to hike and do yoga.


Diana Veneski
Special Education Teacher

Diana majored in English and earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Pittsburgh. She also has an Education Specialist credential for mild to moderate disabilities from National University.

After five years of teaching at a private school, Diana taught for 35 years at the Sierra Sands Unified School District. Inspired by her students, Diana became savvy in all things technological, and has since developed a course of study from keyboarding to programing to address all of her student needs and interests.

In keeping with her passion for technology and the educational opportunities it affords, Diana often incorporates YouTube clips and power points in her lessons here at Mountain Valley. Her goal is to keep students engaged while learning new skills and knowledge.


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