Dr. Irene Chang
Licensed Educational Psychologist and Educationally Related Mental Health Services (ERMHS) Counselor

Dr. Irene brings to NCSA more than 20 years of psychological work in the schools. With a B.A. (1993) and M.A. from Wesleyan University (1994), Dr. Irene went on to complete her Ph.D. in School Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley (2005).  Dr. Irene focused on honing her child, adolescent, and family therapeutic skills while at Contra Costa County Mental Health: Child, Family, & Adolescent Services (1998) and while working in Bay Area elementary-high schools from 1995-2007, in Hawaii as a Clinical/School Psychologist for the Department of Education (2007-2013) and as a school psychologist and mental health provider from 2013 until present in Sonoma and Nevada counties. Her role in psychoeducational evaluations is grounded in cognitive neuropsychology, instruction, and learning development, an ability to assess patterns of student interests, strengths, and weaknesses and their impact on learning, emotional coping, social skills/relationships, motivation, and engagement in the classroom and school community in order to support students with the most effective interventions and supports specific to their needs.


Dr. Irene is a life-long learner who integrates visual and movement expressive arts, mindfulness/meditation, neurobiological feedback, cognitive and dialectical behavioral therapeutic approaches, as well as sand-tray and play therapy approaches in her counseling work with students. Irene has advanced training from the Center for Mind-Body Medicine 2019) to incorporate evidence-based skills in self-awareness, self-care, and self-expression to help bring balance and resilience for healing psychological trauma and stress and Therapist Certification in Individualized Mental Health Intervention for Children with ASD (AIM-HI intervention, 2021). When not at work, Dr. Irene can often be found out in her garden enjoying her flowers, hummingbirds, and bees, or on the trails, yoga mat, or in the water with her husband and two boys. She also is a singer, violinist (classical and electric), Soul Motion/5 Rhythms ecstatic conscious dancer, and avid lace meditation shawl knitter.

Website: https://sites.google.com/view/calmresilienceroom/home

Lauren Cooper
M.A., PPS School Psychologist

Lauren is a School Psychologist at Nevada City School of the Arts. She has a passion for supporting students' emotional and psychological well-being. Lauren embarked on her academic journey at UC Santa Barbara, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychological & Brain Sciences. She then went on to earn her Master's degree in School Psychology from California State University, Chico where she graduated with distinction. This comprehensive program provided her with the knowledge and tools needed to make a positive impact on the lives of students, families, and the school community as a whole. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her dog and cat, reading books, and traveling. Lauren is an avid traveler and has been to over 25 countries!


Scott Mertz
General Ed Counselor

Scott Mertz is a  School Social Worker, School Counselor, and Specialist Instructor who comes to NCSA  with over 16 years of experience working in education, community development, and child/youth mental health.  From leading therapeutic wilderness trips to working as a teacher to facilitating comprehensive school counseling programs, Scott combines his background and training to best serve the needs of the NCSA community.  He is personable, approachable, friendly, and truly cares about the students and families in the community.   Scott also is an elective teacher at NCSA and teaches two middle-school electives called “Bike for Life” and “Thriving in the Wild”.


In his free time, Scott along with his family( his wife and partner of 23 years along with their 6th grader and 11th grader) are often traveling and exploring the Westcoast and beyond.  His family also enjoys relaxing and exp all the recreation that the Northern Sierra has to offer.  Scott is an avid mountain biker, tele skier, backpacker and pretty much enjoys all the wilderness adventure activities in between. Scott is also a ceramic artist and textile designer (fancy name for seamstress) who loves giving his handmade gifts to family and friends.

Qausu AsaaseYaa
Student Support

Qausu AsaaseYaa is a native of Trinidad & Tobago that grew up in the hustle and bustle of New York City. Qausu obtained her bachelor’s degree in Cultural Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in African Diasporic Studies and Early childhood Education from Antioch University.

Considers herself a lifelong service-learner, traveler and heart centered social-entrepreneur and social justice promoter. Qausu has had a wealth of experiences throughout her career both in the US and Ghana, West Africa in the realms of education, youth advocacy, grassroots community organizing, art and artist management, music, and philanthropy that span over 20 years. Qausu is also a vegan Iron Chef and progressive Queen Mother in Adumakokrom in the Bono Ahafo region of Ghana.

-and is thrilled to be a part of NCSA team to support students and school community.


Jai Hanes
Student Support

Jai Hanes comes to us from New York, then Los Angeles, and has spent the last 9 years here in Nevada County working at Mountain Valley Children’s Services.  Jai was trained as a youth counselor, group facilitator, and crisis interventionist. He has worked as the Director of Optimist Youth Homes with youth who exhibit anger management issues and explosive impulsive behaviors and he ran a transitional home for girls and trained staff in crisis management. He then moved over to Mountain Valley as a Behavior Specialist to assist teachers in managing explosive behaviors and to support students with challenges in the classroom. He has extensive experience in CPI and PRO-AcT for crisis interventions, de-escalation, and behavior management. He helped shape how staff were trained to deal with a complex population. Jai also has 20+ years as a multimedia artist, producer, and local community youth advocate promoting cultural awareness & racial equity through public speaking and various artistic platforms such as production, photography, and music. He is currently working at KVMRx as their program director. We are so happy to have Jai join our NCSA team. He looks forward to building relationships with our youth, building a social justice and restorative justice program, and supporting all students’ success.


Michelle Kalos
Lower Campus Resource Teacher
Michelle has been a special educator since 2007. She has a Bachelor's degree from Chico State as well as a Master's and Doctorate from the University of Northern Colorado. Michelle has strong leadership skills and experience in advocating for those with exceptional needs. She has also done extensive research on improving outcomes for students culminating in working for the U.S. Dept of Education: Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services prior to joining us at NCSA.


Michelle is a heart-filled educator whose career focus has been on celebrating each student’s individual strengths and supporting them as they realize how those strengths are the foundation of their growth. Michelle believes that there are no barriers to achievement for those with a disability, only potential differences and she focuses on self-advocacy/self-determination and academic success. Moving back home to Nevada County, and teaching at Nevada City School of the Arts is a dream come true for Michelle and for our school.


Michelle and her wife, Valerie, have two children who are grown and living in Colorado and New York. They also have two large, goofy black labs and will soon welcome chickens and bees onto their little piece of "fair acres" in Grass Valley.  They love gardening, hiking, reading, and laughing.

Ania Kapp
Middle School Resource Teacher
Ania works as a Resource teacher at NCSA, supporting neuro-diverse students. She began her career in education as a paraprofessional and fell in love with the job and the students. Ania decided to go back to school and pursue a graduate degree with a teaching credential.  For the past four years, she has been the elementary school Resource teacher at NCSA. This year, she is making a move up the hill to the middle school. Ania is passionate about her job and loves helping her students feel successful. She is constantly researching and trying to learn how to make the classroom equitable for all students. 
Ania holds a B.A. in Art from Cal State Hayward. She has an M.S. in Special Education and Educational Specialist teaching credential from National University. 
Ania was born in Poland and moved to the United States when she was 11. She loves learning about other cultures and dabbles in learning other languages. Ania enjoys hanging out by the lake and spending time with her family and friends.
Katie Moorehead
Reading Specialist

Katie has been our Reading Specialist for nine years.


She began her career as a Speech Pathologist and became an NCSA parent in 2004. While her sons were attending the school, she volunteered and soon took a position as a classroom aide.


When her youngest struggled with reading, her interest shifted to teaching, and she decided to get her credential and reading certificate. She now holds a B.S. in Speech Pathology and Audiology, a multiple-subject Teaching Credential, and several Reading Specialist certifications. Over the years, she’s continued her education, always striving to learn more and discover innovative approaches to help students become successful readers.


Encouraging students to overcome obstacles, connect with the joy of reading, and carry that enthusiasm throughout their lives is her passion.


In her time off, Katie loves to mountain bike, hike, cross-country ski, paddleboard, and – of course – read.

Nancy Nobriga
Math Specialist

Nancy Nobriga joined NCSA’s team in spring 2019 with more than seventeen years of teaching experience. She brings a broad range of experiences from charter, public, and private schools, outdoor education, and a tutoring/home-schooling business. Throughout the years, her favorite classes to teach were math, from Kindergarten to High School Algebra I.


Nancy believes everyone can learn math, not only those “good at math.” Nancy understands that many students grow up to be adults who are burdened by math phobia. She strives to dispel students’ math anxiety through hands-on manipulatives, growth-mindset activities and fact-fluency games.  Nancy also recognizes that math skills open future education and career opportunities. She inspires a love of learning through the discovery of patterns, puzzling fun, and making meaningful connections to make math fun!


Her students gain confidence as they strengthen their number sense and conceptual understanding.  They use math vocabulary and engage in active discourse to explain their mathematical thinking and to listen to others’ perspectives. Students embrace making mistakes, as brain science has proven they’re essential to learning.  Although correct answers and accurate procedures are important, students also learn that speed is not required for success.  Nancy aspires to support students wherever they are on the learning continuum and to further develop academic excellence at Nevada City School of the Arts.


Nancy earned a B.A. from University of California- Santa Cruz, a CA Teaching Credential at Sierra Nevada College, and a Math Specialist Graduate Certificate from University of Wisconsin.


When Nancy isn’t building rapport with students or collaborating with colleagues, she enjoys foothill life with her husband and twins.  They’re often paddle-boarding and kayaking, skiing, camping, going to soccer games, enjoying jogging and biking trails, and playing with their dog and kittens.

Erika Haynes
Speech Therapist

Erika Haynes, MS, CCC-SLP

Speech Language Pathologist


Erika grew up in the hills of a tiny town in Mendocino County amongst oak, manzanita, and madrone trees. Prior to her decade long career as a speech language pathologist, Erika has always enjoyed working in social occupations.  In 1998, she received her bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from Humboldt State University.  Shortly after graduating from HSU, she taught preschool for many years in Marin County, before leaving to assist in therapy groups at the Kalmanovitz Child Development Center at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.  In 2007, she returned to school for her master’s degree in Communicative Science and Disorders at Cal State East Bay.  After receiving her degree, Erika worked in Bay Area schools for 6 years as an SLP before moving to Nevada County and working in Placer County school district for another 3 years.  She very happily began her work at NCSA in 2020, and is overjoyed to be supporting students in the community she loves.


Erika has worked in a variety of class settings; from general education to moderate-severe special education classrooms, supporting students with needs in the areas of receptive/expressive/social language, fluency and articulation.  She has received certification in Picture Exchange Communication (PECs), and has advanced training in Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC) in order to support students who benefit from using other modes of communication aside from speech. Recently, Erika piloted a language intensive preschool program to provide early intervention services for students with mild-moderate communication disorders.  Erika has implemented a variety of techniques in her therapy practice, including using music, visual supports, games, physical activity, and literature based curriculum.  Currently, she is interested in better understanding how to support and involve neurodiverse students so that speech/language therapy nurtures a sense of self-esteem in a world that can be challenging and overwhelming to a neurodiverse brain.


On the weekends and during breaks, Erika spends her time gardening, hiking, and swimming in the river.  Erika enjoys knitting while listening to audio books, wild crafting, herbalism, reading, cooking, baking, and hanging out with her husband, and wonderful menagerie of animals.  She feels grateful and excited to be working at NCSA, a school that encourages growth, community and creativity.