Faculty And Staff
Daisy Barnard teaches high school humanities and directs the high school choir, in addition to being class sponsor for the Class of 2015. She was born and raised in Colorado, then earned a B.A. in Religious Studies at Lawrence University in Appleton, WI. She received her Waldorf certification from Emerson College U.K. in 1999. She has a California State Teaching Credential from Antioch University and an M.A. in Mythological Studies from Pacifica Graduate Institute. Ms. Barnard has been a class teacher at Monterey Bay Charter School and Ocean Charter School, both Waldorf-inspired public initiatives. Ms. Barnard's interests include music, theater, reading, writing, and yoga. She lives in Huntington Beach with her husband, Morgan, and children, Lark and Buck.
Eden Boric teaches biology and Earth science in the high school, in addition to acting as co-sponsor of the Class of 2016. She was born in Chicago, raised in Orange County, and received her B.A. in Anthropology (focus in biological anthropology) from California State University, Long Beach. She has been a part of the WSOC community as a parent since 2000, and began working for the school in 2007, helping to open the new high school as High School Coordinator. She lives in Costa Mesa with her husband, Brad, and daughters, Maisie and Ivy.
Jenell Carlson was born and raised in Southern California. She received a B.A. in literature at San Diego State University, and her Waldorf teacher training certificate through the Bay Area Center for Waldorf Teacher Training. She has also completed the Spatial Dynamics program for movement instructors and the Consciousness Studies program at Rudolf Steiner College. Jenell has been teaching since 1999: as a kindergarten teacher, a movement instructor, a high school humanities teacher, teacher of the eighth grade and currently the Play Group Director.
Francesco De Benedetto
Francesco De Benedetto teaches high school fine arts and 6, 7 and 8th grade drawing, painting and sculpture. After growing up in Italy, surrounded by the beauty of its landscape and historically rich culture, he moved to California and completed a bachelor's in fine arts at Laguna College of Art and Design. In subsequent years working as a full time artist, he was commissioned to create portraits for art collectors, included in many juried shows and exhibits, and received a grant from the George and Helene Segal Foundation. While teaching art classes in 2008, he encountered Waldorf’s pedagogy and found it so fascinating that he moved to Sacramento to pursue his certificate in Waldorf education at Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks. There he completed a one-year internship and practicum at the Sacramento Waldorf High School. He then taught for two years at the Green Meadow Waldorf School in New York. Besides reading books by Steiner and painting, he enjoys kayaking, and being out in nature with his wife and family.
Kurt Faerber teaches eurythmy in the lower grades and high school. He is the co-sponsor for the Class of 2016. Born and raised in Southwest Germany, he completed his civil service at the Institute for Children and Youth. He studied art therapy/pedagogy at the School for the Arts in Northern Germany and completed his class teacher and eurythmy training at the Institute for Waldorf Education in Witten. Kurt toured with eurythmy ensembles throughout Germany, Egypt, and Italy for one year. He taught eurythmy to all grades at the Rudolf Steiner School near Zurich in Switzerland for 15 years and was a high school sponsor for several classes. Before joining the faculty of WSOC, he spent five years developing the eurythmy program at the Honolulu Waldorf School for kindergarten through grade 12.
Steve Graff teaches high school mathematics. Steve is a native of San Diego, California, and received his BA in mathematics from UCSD. In between undergraduate and graduate school, Steve spent a couple of years in Europe, briefly tending bar in Berlin and working on a couple of offshore oil rigs in the North Sea. While attending San Diego State Graduate School of Business, Steve taught lower division statistics, number theory and general math under an inter-departmental teaching assistanceship. Steve spent a number of years in business in such diverse businesses as banking, transportation, and healthcare. Over the last decade, Steve has taught virtually every course in the mathematics curriculum, from Essentials of Algebra and Consumer Math, to AP Statistics and AP Calculus. Steve currently lives in Huntington Beach, with his 14-month old mixed-breed golden retriever Reggie.
Eric Johnson teaches high school physics and mathematics. Eric comes to the Waldorf School of Orange County with 13 years teaching experience in private and public schools in both California and Texas. Born in Louisiana, he spent most of his childhood as a Navy brat living in various parts of the southeastern United States, Texas, and Cuba. Eric’s primary area of expertise is teaching physics. He has a BS in physics (1994) from Texas A & M University and an MS in theoretical physics (1998) from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. When Eric is not busy teaching he enjoys writing short stories/haikus, biking new trails, wine tasting along the central coast, going to live jazz/world music concerts, and doing art walks with friends in the LA area.
Michael Knauss teaches woodwork. He was born in Fuessen, Germany, and grew up in Cape Town, South Africa. He became acquainted with Waldorf education through working with handicapped children in the Camphill School in Hermanus. Michael completed his Waldorf teacher training at the Lehrerseminar in Stuttgart, Germany. He has taught in England, the US and Germany. Before joining the WSOC faculty in 1995, Michael completed an eight-year cycle as class teacher at the Freie Waldorfschule Engelberg in Stuttgart, Germany, and in 2002 graduated his class at WSOC.
Emmi Kohout (known as "Srta. Kohout") is the 9th-12th grade Spanish teacher and College Counselor at WSOC. She was raised in a Czech family in Southern California and learned Spanish in a language immersion program beginning in kindergarten. She completed a Bachelor's in Spanish Literature and Culture, a Master's in Spanish Literature, and a Teaching Credential at the University of California, Irvine. During her undergraduate studies, she lived in Madrid for one year and attended the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. She has been teaching at universities and high schools since 2009 and joined WSOC in 2012. She loves to engage students in active Spanish conversation and expose them to the beauty and realities of the countries of the Spanish-speaking world.
Naqib Shifa teaches humanities and history in the high school, and is co-class sponsor for the Class of 2018. He was born and raised in Southern California and graduated from UCLA in Geography/Environmental Studies with a minor in Middle Eastern and North African Studies. Since graduating he has worked professionally in the environmental industry, both in health sciences and consulting. He’s also continued his education in Islamic Studies and History through taking several courses with Al-Maghrib Institute and the Islamic Institute of Orange County. He has been invited to deliver lectures by many schools and organizations on the topics of Religion, History, Modernity, Faith, Scripture, Prayer, and Creed and has also delivered sermons. He joined the Waldorf faculty in 2013 and loves seeking and imparting a love of knowledge.
Robin Theiss is the lead humanities teacher at the Waldorf School of Orange County High School, and co-class sponsor for the Class of 2018. She was born and raised in Southern California. She received her B.A. in Philosophy and Religious Studies from the University of California, Riverside. After graduation, she was chosen as a student intern at Pendle Hill, a Quaker community in Pennsylvania. Here she studied Quaker life, the philosophy and active practice of non-violence and passive resistance, communication skills, and practical arts such as weaving, pottery, baking, and sewing. After her time at Pendle Hill, she was selected as a scholarship recipient to Claremont Graduate School to study in the master of arts program in the School of Theology. Before entering the Ph.D. program, she was presented with an opportunity to buy a local coffee house, Natalé Coffee. Wanting a break from academia, she purchased the coffee house and owned and operated it for 12 years, expanding to another location in Costa Mesa. Natalé Coffee became a community center, offering poetry evenings, political lectures, educational forums, and book discussions. She and her husband married during this time and had 2 children. Her children reaching school age coincided with her desire to return to academics; she found Waldorf education for both her children and herself. She enrolled in the Bay Area Center for Waldorf Teacher Training in 2001 and completed both the grades and high school training in 2004. Upon graduation, she was hired as the founding teacher at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School. She worked in that pioneering endeavor for 5 years, until she joined the Waldorf School of Orange County in 2009. She enjoys working with adolescents to help unveil their given capacities through rigorous study, deep contemplation, and a love of life in its myriad possibilities.
Debora Wondercheck, Director of Music at the WSOC, also serves as the Executive Director of Arts & Learning Conservatory and was an Adjunct Professor of Music at Vanguard University. She is the founding conductor of the Bellagio Strings Youth Orchestra of OC. Mrs. Wondercheck was a teacher in the Irvine Unified School District, where she was a master teacher of string pedagogy. She has a B.A. in Music Education and a M.S in Education Administration from California State University, Fullerton. While teaching in the Newport-Mesa School District, she was a recipient of the Teachers of Excellence Award. She is a recent recipient of the Links Incorporated Women of Service Award for exemplary community service to youth. She serves on the Cultural Arts Community for Costa Mesa, and is a member of both the Arts Alliance of California and the Orange County Music and Arts Administrator Association. She counts it a complete privilege and joy to bring music to the students of WSOC.