Our faculty

Tina Bruno

Director

Tina Bruno was born in Starnberg, Germany. She grew up in the “Alpenvorland” and has been to many Oktoberfests, Christkindlmarks and other traditional Bavarian celebrations. After graduating from high school in Germany, she moved to the US as an Au-pair and attended community college in Cerritos, CA. She met her husband in a speech and debate class and graduated in 2009 with an AA degree in Math, Natural science, and Chemistry. Tina recently bought a house with her family in Linda, CA and everyone is enjoying having more room to grow. She earned her BS in Human and Family Development from ASU in 2018 and her Master’s in Social Work in 2023. She currently works at the Mental Health Urgent Care collecting her clinical hours towards licensure. Tina started teaching at the Turnverein in 2015 and is currently Co-Director of the German Language School. Tina enjoys spending time with her family& dogs, exploring the outdoors, reading, running, and watching German movies.

Sonja El-Heliebi Wissink

Director

Sonja was born and raised in Graz, Austria, has Egyptian roots, lived in Spain for a few years, and moved to Sacramento in 2017. She is a native speaker of German and is also fluent in English and Spanish. After traveling through Europe, Sonja returned to Austria in 2006 to complete her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in English and American Studies as well as her Magister/teaching degree in German, English, and Applied Ethics at the Karl-Franzens-University in Graz. Back in Austria she worked in the field of telecommunications for 10 years and started teaching German and English as a Second Language in 2010. Sonja works as German instructor at the University of the Pacific in Stockton as well as a lecturer of German at the Sacramento State University. In her spare time, she loves long runs along the American river and cooking for and with friends and family.

Iva Hösch

Teacher

Iva was born in a small town in Bulgaria. She grew up in Bavaria, in a town named Bamberg. She graduated from the University of Bamberg where she studied German and History of ART with the goal of becoming a teacher. During her studies, she worked for different companies as a translator. Iva has more than 13 years of experience working as a German Teacher in many different German Schools in the State of Bavaria. She moved to the United States with her family in the Summer of 2023. In her spare time, she loves playing piano, reading, traveling and spending time with her family.

Chad Riding

Teacher

Chad grew up in Fresno, California. Chad had his first experience with the German language at age seven, when local high school kids began teaching German before school once a week. He continued his studies throughout middle and high school and college and trips to Germany. And of course he’s made a lot of German friends here in Sacramento, where he’s lived for the past thirteen years.

Chad works for the State of California as a transportation planner. He recieved his Bachelor of Science degree in Urban, Rural, and Environmental Planning from Brigham Young University in 2007 and his Master of Arts in Urban and Regional Planning degree from the University of Florida in 2009.

In his spare time, Chad enjoys reading, hiking, exercising, spending time outdoors, and spending time with friends and family. You may also find him at a local art museum, looking at pieces he’s seen several times before.

Jasmin Versage

Teacher

Jasmin grew up in a small town outside of Stuttgart in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. She graduated from the University of Heidelberg where she studied English and Spanish to become a teacher. During her studies, she lived in Spain for one year and attended the University of Barcelona. Jasmin moved to the United States in 2014. She started her teaching career at a high school in Colorado Springs, CO in 2015 where she taught German and Spanish for three years and organized several student exchange trips to Germany. She also has a master’s degree in Teaching, Learning, and Teacher Education with a focus on World Languages from Nebraska State University. Jasmin is currently taking time off from teaching full-time to raise her 4-year-old and 7-month-old daughters. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, baking, cooking, cycling, and traveling.

Chris Faull

Teacher

Chris grew up close to Koblenz in Rheinland-Pfalz. After school, she earned a vocational education degree as an office clerk (Bürokauffrau). Chris worked in this profession for several years in Germany before moving to England, where she lived for 3 years. She then moved to the US in the 90s. In the US Chris went back to school and got her bachelor’s degree in business in 2004 from the University of Maryland. Since then, she has worked in the financial and educational fields. Chris is a realtor, tax professional, and educator. She has been working at the German Language School already in 2010 and 2011 and returned to teaching at the GLS in May 2023.

She enjoys traveling, especially to the coast. She also likes reading, art, walking and spending time with her family, friends and dogs.

Brigitte St Hilaire

Teacher

Brigitte grew up in the Rhineland, in Neuwied am Rhein. She studied Philosophy at the Gutenberg University Mainz and completed her education at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main, where she obtained a master’s degree in  German Philology, Music, and Theater Science in 1985. She stayed in Frankfurt, continued to work on her thesis about German Humourism, and traveled in her free time through Europe and Venezuela. In 1989 she started working as Sales Representative for an Airline in Frankfurt am Main and moved in 2001 with her American husband and son to Anaheim, Southern California. She began tutoring German shortly after her relocation to the US. In 2016 she reconnected with the academic world to pursue her favorite profession, teaching languages and German. She took classes in French, English literature, creative writing, and obtained a TESOL Certificate at Cal State University San Bernardino in 2018. Since 2003 Brigitte works full time for an American based retailer in the Administration Department, being now responsible for Sales Audit and Expenses. She transferred through her employer to Sacramento in 2020. She started teaching the Heritage Classes at Sacramento Turn Verein German Language School in June 2023. In her free time, she travels frequently back to Germany to visit her son and family. She enjoys hiking and running along the American River and in the surrounding mountains. Brigitte loves playing the piano, and she attends concerts and music festivals whenever she gets a chance.

Bettina Chrysofakis-Baiduc

Teacher

Bettina spent her formative years in Berlin, Germany. Later, her family relocated to a quaint spot in Northern Germany, nestled near Hannover, a place they still call home. Bettina’s academic pursuits led her to medical school in Hannover, Germany. Subsequently, she embarked on her Internal Medicine residency at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, NY, USA, before delving into a transformative fellowship in the division of Palliative Care and Geriatric Medicine at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital in New York, NY. It was during her residency that she met her Greek husband, who, like her, was an Internal Medicine resident. After a few years in New York, the young family decided to make the Golden State of California their new abode. As a testament to her multilingual background—fluent in German, Romanian, now Greek (as well as basic Spanish)—Bettina and her husband are fervent language enthusiasts, passing on their main languages (German and Greek) to their children. The era of COVID lockdowns brought unexpected opportunities as Bettina adeptly navigated homeschooling her young children, leading to a remarkable level of their German language skills. Beyond her role as a physician, wife and mother, Bettina’s passions encompass sewing, reading, socializing over a cup of coffee, culinary arts, baking, traveling, learning Greek, teaching German, blogging, crafting, and organizing. In her professional life, Bettina continues to work as an Internist, Geriatrician, and Lifestyle Medicine physician.

Björn Steudte

Teacher

Björn was born in Halle (Saale) in East-Germany. After the wall came down, he finished his high school degree and worked at a  Kindergartenduring his Community Year while also working as a lifeguard during the summer months. In 1998, Björn started his architectural education at the Bauhaus-University in Weimar. From 2001- 2002, he studied in Oxford and worked at the English architecture firm, Benoy. After receiving his architecture diploma, he worked at a Russian architecture firm in Moscow and then at an English architecture firm.  He received a DAAD Scholarship and started a Master’s program in Architecture at Virginia Tech in the fall of 2005 which he completed in 2007.  He then relocated to San Francisco to start a position at CCS Architecture. In 2018, Bjorn and his family moved to Folsom, which was the city of choice for raising their two kids. In his spare time, he loves watching movies, playing board games, eating chocolate and ice cream, traveling, biking, swimming, running, hiking, and visiting his family and friends in Europe.

Rita Hanisch-Dunbar

Assistant Heritage Speaker Classes

Rita was born and raised in a suburb of Köln/Cologne in North Rhine–Westphalia in Germany. After Realschule, she completed an apprenticeship in Interior Design and Visual Merchandising with a Swedish home furnishing retailer, after which she spent a year abroad in Atlanta, Georgia as an Au-Pair. This career sent Rita to the San Francisco Bay Area and later love brought her further north to Sacramento. Rita has developed her passion for home & design into an entrepreneurial career in Home Staging and enjoys related hobbies like home decorating and gardening as well as crafting, fitness, traveling and the outdoors. She treasures spending time with her friends and extended family. Rita, her husband, and her daughter reside in Fair Oaks, while their older kids have ventured out to explore the world and spread their wings. Their daughter is raised bilingual which brought the family to the German Language School for the heritage speaker class, which Rita joined as a teacher assistant in the fall of 2022. Fun fact about Rita: She used to sing in a cover band and surfed. Nowadays going roller-skating with her daughter rocks!