Karine RAVEL SANCHEZ, Founder and Director

Following a Masters degree in Economics and a DESS degree in Human Resources, Karine began her career in Human Resources as a consultant and HR Manager in private companies.

After six years, Karine decided to change paths and she became a teacher certified by the French National Board of Education. She spent the following ten years teaching classes of varying levels between maternelle (nursery school) and CM2 (primary school).

Karine pursued her teaching experience in French schools abroad. She also worked as the pedagogical and administrative manager of a French school in Chile with 7 classes.

Drawing on her experience working with children, as well as her own personal experience as a mother of four, Karine decided to open her own school in Provence, a school which would adapt to the needs of each child.

Karine completed training in Montessori teaching methods for 3-6 year olds and 6-12 year olds with the organization « Apprendre Montessori, ». She also completed training sessions with Sophie Rabhi on the themes of Active Listening, Non-Violent Communications and Mediation. Karine is in charge of school administration and management. She also works closely with the teachers and with the school’s Pedagogical Director, to organize and structure programs which meet the needs of each child at the Gift School.

Romain MAFFI, School Director and Curriculum Director

Romain began his teaching career in the Parisian suburbs, working in priority education zones with the French Education Nationale. Differentiation and inclusive education were immediately essential factors in his classroom. He then spent two years at the French American School of New York, where he honed his skills in using new technologies and in bilingual teaching.

Upon returning to France, he put his new knowledge into practice, focusing on a project-based program, on embracing diversity and global awareness, and on empathy and social skills. He has always been deeply committed to the progress and well-being of each student. Eager to explore new educational systems, Romain and his family then moved to Copenhagen for two years, where he worked at the Lycée Français de Copenhague, and the discovery of Scandinavian teaching methods greatly enriched his classroom practices.

Back in France, and after spending one year as an educational advisor in Pantin (responsible for training teachers, organizing sports events or field trips, and facilitating communication between schools and the local inspectors), he became the director of a democratic school in the center of Marseille.

Romain’s various experiences convinced him of the importance of bilingualism and its benefits for everyone, as well as its impact on cultural openness, and inevitably leading to the values which are so cherished by the Gift School.

Laura GILLESPIE, Assistant Director

Like jazz (and like Carolyn), Laura was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Growing up in a bicultural French-American family taught Laura the fundamental rules of intercultural communication which she later refined through her studies, research and extensive travel.

Laura’s professional experience is diverse. After working both in Brazil and in New York, she worked for 8 years as an independent English language communications consultant for both local and international companies based in the Aix-Marseille region. She then founded and ran a destination wedding company, worked for EPIM (Ecole Privée Internationale de la Mediterrannée in Luynes, taken over by IBS in 2015), worked for a luxury travel planning company in Provence and then worked at the organic food store Biocoop in Aix. All the while raising two bilingual children and being a very active parent in her children’s schools and communities.

Laura joined the Gift School team in September 2020. She also enjoys supervising lunchtime and teaching children the principles of mindful eating.

Emmanuelle ROQUES, French Teacher elementary classes

Emmanuelle studied Theater and Contemporary Literature before working as an actress and theater instructor in Marseille for 8 years. She then decided to become a school teacher, so that she could more broadly share her passion for theater with children. After her training, she taught in Marseille and in Paris for 8 years, across all levels from Pre-K to Elementary.

She then spent 5 years teaching in French schools abroad, at the French American School of New York, and at the Lycée Français in Copenhagen.

Alternative teaching methods which respect the developmental needs of children, as well as theater and Scandinavian culture, are Emmanuelle’s passions which she enjoys bringing into her classroom through creative and cultural projects.

Emmanuelle’s gentle nature, her optimism, her outgoing character and her amazing gift for teaching theater to the kids, have been a wonderful addition to the Gift School team since September 2021.

Frances SILLARS, English Teacher for elementary classes

As a young child Frances has distinct memories of her first real appreciations of the natural world; the smell, the feeling of the wind and the taste of rain. Her young adulthood was shaped by natural history documentaries presented by the infamous David Attenborough. His wonder at the beauty, diversity and preciousness of our world along with his respect for our beautiful planet yet also the people he spoke with whether that be a young child, an eminent scientist or those who live off the land enthralled her.

Following a degree in Biology and French, Frances moved to Quebec to teach. This experience then inspired her to return to the UK and obtain her Postgraduate Diploma Certificate of Education in Secondary Science (Biology). Fascinated by the way a child’s first experiences with the subject named “Science” can influence the future of their passion for the world and its workings, Frances taught in two secondary schools and was responsible for organizing the Junior Science curriculum as well as Primary Outreach work. After having two daughters, here in France, the role of a bilingual and respectful education has taken a new and even more important meaning.

Frances joins the team at the Gift School to share her love of the world around us and our role within it.

Carolyn GILLESPIE, English teacher for elementary classes, Gift Wednesday teacher, Montessori trained

Globe-trotting Carolyn spent her childhood riding horses on the banks of the Mississippi River. Born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, Carolyn’s parents moved to Provence when she was 11 years old and they have been there ever since.

Carolyn obtained a Masters degree in Eco-Tourism and Urban Planning from the University of Bordeaux and then spent ten years years studying, traveling and working abroad before settling back down in Aix en Provence. Her travels and experience lead her to spend extensive time in Chile, Ecuador, Belize, Holland and New Zealand.

Carolyn is a confirmed horse rider and rock climber, and she also has experience working as an assistant veterinarian.

After working in several bilingual schools in Provence, Carolyn decided to devote her career to children. She is currently completing her Montessori training with « Apprendre Montessori » and she has been working with the Gift School team from its inception in September 2019.

Léa DUBUQUOY, French Montessori Teacher maternelles class 3-5 year olds

For as long as she can remember, Léa always wanted to work with children.

With a Masters degree in Education and Teaching and a passion for books, Léa worked for 5 years in a local children’s bookstore, where she also organized and ran workshops for children.

Léa felt called to teaching and particularly in alternative school environnements ; she therefore completed a full year’s training certificate at the « Aide à la Vie – La Source »  Montessori training center in Saint Cannat, where she specialized in teaching 3-6 year olds.

As a Montessori educator, Léa worked for several Montessori schools where she used her training in traditional and Montessori teaching methods as well as her passion for books, to accompany young children through their developmental years.

Léa is also an active local eco-citizen and she is passionate about nature, cooking, yoga and meditation. Léa shares her interests with the children in her class who participate in her workshops with great pleasure.

Sweet, attentive and caring, Léa teaches Class 2 (4-5 year olds).

Meriem AIDOUD, Assistant for the 3-5 year old class

Meriem has a Bachelor’s degree in English, and she has always been interested in multilingual development in children, with a special focus on psychology and cognitive development.

Meriem was a fully dedicated mother of two, actively engaging in their academic journey and educational activities, before deciding to act upon her desire to teach and embark on training to work with children using the Montessori method, as well as obtaining a TEFL certification to teach English.

Originally from Algiers, Meriem looks forward with joy to the prospect of working alongside the Gift School children, guiding them in a positive and stimulating environment, while carefully respecting the unique needs of each one. Her empathy, patience, and kindness will be valuable assets in accompanying children, and she looks forward to sharing her knowledge and interests, which include yoga, meditation, hiking, foreign cultures, as well as ecology.

Morgane NICOLLE, French Montessori teacher maternelles class 2-4 year olds, Wednesday club Coordinator

After obtaining her Masters in Education and Teaching, Morgane trained to be an English teacher at the Académie de Versailles. Morgane speaks fluent English thanks to a Bachelors degree in English Language and Literature, as well as to the Cambridge Certficate in Advanced English which she obtained at the University of Perth in Australia.

Morgane has extensive experience both as a school teacher as well as an English teacher.

As a school teacher, Morgane was in charge of classes ranging from Petite Section (1st year of Preschool) to CM1 (4th grade) for 3 years at the Academy of Versailles. She also taught nursery school classes in a French school in Thailand. As an English teacher, Morgane teaches English to classes ranging from 1st grade to High School seniors, while working in parallel with sick children in hospitals.

Trained in Montessori methods with the organization « Aide à la vie – la source » in Saint Cannat, Morgane uses positive reinforcement and mindfulness in her classes. Caring and experienced, Morgane teaches Class 1, our youngest children. She also teaches English to Class 2 (4-5 year olds) and Class 3 (6-7 year olds).

Taya MAKI, English Montessori teacher for the maternelles classes

Taya is originally from Vancouver, Canada, and has been working as an English-speaking Montessori teacher for over 12 years in Aix-en-Provence, in different schools.

Taya holds a degree in Wildlife Ecology and Environmental Sciences. Her passion for the natural world shines through as she shares her love for nature with young children. She also has a keen interest in music and dance, which she incorporates to create playful and engaging methods to help her pupils interact with the English language.

Taya received her Montessori training from La Source in 2014. She is also a mother of two bilingual daughters who have had the privilege of having their mother as their teacher.

Yekaterina Muravyova-DELVIGNE, alias “Katia”, Assistant to maternelles class 2-4 year olds, Gift Wednesday teacher, Holiday camp Coordinator

Katia arrived in France in 2017, from Russia. Following her studies in Education and Teaching English, Katia worked with children and adults in various schools in her native city, Novossibirsk, Siberia.

Proud of her Siberian origins, Katia enjoys sharing her culture and language with the Gift School children. In her free time, Katia enjoys learning other languages and reading about psychology. She also loves nature walks and spending time outdoors.