Valley International Academy is proud to introduce its faculty and staff.

Christie Filios
Head of School

Christie is in her 39th year in education.  She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English and Communication Arts at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.  Following her bachelor’s degree, she attended Stanford University where she earned an Master’s in Education and a teaching credential.  Throughout the years, she has earned a Certificate in College Counseling and completed coursework in Educational Therapy, in addition to completing coursework in a number of educational-related fields.  Over the years, she has had the opportunity to serve in a number of roles:  classroom teacher, Activities Director, Director of College Counseling, Dean of Discipline, class and club moderator, as well as principal.

Christie is in her sixth year at Valley International Academy.  She served as the Dean of Faculty and Students from August 2014 until January 2018 when she was named Head of School.  She is currently teaching Creative Writing during the 2019-2020 school year.

Outside of school, Christie’s favorite activity is spending time with her granddaughter Savannah.  She can frequently be found watching Savannah’s sports games (soccer, volleyball, softball or basketball), helping with homework,  or hanging out with Savannah.  Christie enjoys watching sporting events and reading, especially murder mysteries.


Leah Carlon
English, Social Science, and Physical Education Instructor

Leah is in her third year at Valley International Academy.  She earned a Sociology degree as well as an English and ESL teaching credential from Sonoma State University.  Leah gained wonderful experience in working with international students when she taught English in Nepal at a Children’s home.

During the 2019-20 school year, Leah is teaching English 3. US History and Physical Education.  According to Leah, “High school students are at an age where they can really begin to think critically and question the world around them. I have the wonderful opportunity to help them stretch their thinking and challenge themselves during this important stage of learning development. I l love being able to support them in their journey to becoming educated, mindful, and inspired young adults!”

Leah’s hobbies include playing guitar and tennis. She also enjoys reading, hiking, and yoga.  Having just recently moved to the Saratoga area, Leah spends weekends exploring the area.


Paul Gacioch
ESL and Social Sciences Instructor

Paul has the distinction of being the longest serving employee at Valley International Academy.  While he has been teaching at the high school level for nine years, he has spent the last nine years at VIA.  Paul began his educational journal at Northern Arizona University where he earned dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in History and English.  He then went on to earn a Master’s in English from New York University.  Before entering the education field, Paul worked as a writer at marketing firms in Sausalito and San Francisco.  He has had some short fiction pieces published in literary journals.

During the 2019-20 school year, Paul is teaching World History, US History, Government, Economics, ESL Intermediate and Advanced ESL.  In the past he has taught Physical Fitness, World Religions, Creative Writing and several other electives. “I like working with high school students because I can guide them, and fill their heads with possibilities, as they grow dramatically during these years.”

Paul and his wife have three young sons which keep him extremely busy.  Paul is always reading several books at a time.  He plays the guitar and drums, both badly he states, and makes himself suffer by lifting weights and jogging.


Laura Gerlach
English and Theater Instructor

Earning an English-Literature degree from Sonoma State University set Laura on her path to becoming an English teacher.  In addition to her English degree, Laura earned a teaching credential and TESOL certification. Laura is in her 16th year of teaching, having spent 12 years at Lincoln High School in Stockton before joining the Valley International Academy staff six years ago.

Laura is currently teaching Theater 1, English 2, and English 4.  In previous years, she has also taught English 1,  English 3, and PE.  According to Laura, “High school students allow me to maintain my youthful sense of humor and explorative nature; they make me feel young at heart. Additionally, I enjoy the curious nature of high school students and witnessing their “ah-ha” moments that come with learning. Teaching is one of the greatest joys in my life.”

Outside of school , Laura enjoys teaching and playing the piano, writing cards and letters, and trying new recipes.  In good weather, you will find her going on long walks, riding bikes in Santa Cruz or wakeboarding at a local beach.  Her quieter pursuits include reading, yoga and visiting with close friends.


Dennis Hong
Mathematics Instructor

Dennis Hong has joined the Valley International Academy community this school year. Dennis has previously taught locally at Pioneer and Branham High Schools. Dennis earned a Bachelor of Arts in Engineering and Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from The University of California at Berkeley. He subsequently went on to San Jose State where he earned his Single Subject Teaching Credential in Math. He also has a credential in Career Technical Education in Engineering.

During the 2019-20 school year, Dennis is teaching Integrated Math II, Integrated Math III, PreCalculus, AP Calculus AB, and AP Statistics. He is continuing the tradition of supporting students by hosting the California Mathematics League competitions.

Outside of the classroom, Dennis enjoys spending time with his wife and son.


Richard Louie
Science Instructor

While in his 21st year in education, Richard joined the Valley International Academy community three years ago.  Rick has also taught locally at Saint Lawrence Academy, Magnolia Science Academy, and Garces Memorial High School.  Rick completed his education locally.  He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Santa Clara University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chemistry from San Jose State University.  His teaching credential allows him to teach chemistry, physics, physical science and mathematics.

During the 2019-20 school year, Rick is teaching Chemistry, AP Chemistry, Ecoolgy and  Physics.  Rick’s Chemistry lectures can all be found on Youtube so students can hear his lectures and read his lecture notes as many times as they wish.

What many people don’t know about Rick is that he can play the ukulele.