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Barbara Ecker - President

I am mom to two boys - one a recent graduate of Die Rasselbande and another who will start his adventures here in 2020. I am a former family law attorney and am currently spending most of my time taking care of our two children. In my limited spare time, I enjoy cooking, knitting and all manner of crafts. My husband is from Austria, so we are a German-English dual language household. We both feel truly fortunate to have found such a wonderful preschool here in San Diego and our lives have been enriched by being a part of the “Rasselbande Familie”. From the excellent teachers, to the outstanding curriculum and supportive parents, the community I have experienced at Die Rasselbande is unlike any other. I am pleased to serve on the board doing my utmost to keep Die Rasselbande a great place to play and learn for our children.


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Thomas Schmidt

I’m originally from Austria and a happy Papa of two sons. I grew up in a small town in the north of Austria and came to the U.S. for graduate studies at the University of Oregon. There I met my wife Amanda and after spending some time in Bend, Oregon, and Boise, Idaho, we moved to San Diego in 2019. I’m an assistant professor at UC San Diego’s Department of Communication.


From the first moment I visited Rasselbande, I loved its focus on play-based education and its keen interest in cultivating cultural traditions from the German-speaking world. It’s important to me that my sons stay connected to their Austrian roots and I couldn’t think of a better place where they can experience the best of two worlds. I’d like to offer my time, passion and enthusiasm to support the community as a board member.



Matthias Morzfeld 

I grew up in Bochum, Germany, which is a town in a densely populated area called "Ruhrgebiet", or "Ruhrpott," that used to produce lots of coal after the war. I studied Mechanical Engineering in Bochum and Darmstadt before making my way to Berkeley, CA, as an exchange student who eventually would not return (at least for now). I did a doctorate and postdoctoral work at UC Berkeley, then moved to Tucson, AZ, for five years and then landed in San Diego in 2020 (what a year!) as a Professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. My wife, Andrea, is a web developer from Colombia and at home we speak German, Spanish and English with our 3.5 year old daughter Mia, who is in the Fische Gruppe. The three of us enjoy everything with water - beach, swimming, snorkeling, surfing - and ride bikes and we play a lot (often soccer, of course). I would like to help with being a Board member to keep Rasselbande as great as it is (or make it even better).



Vera Philipsen - Treasurer


I have a four year old, currently in the Loewen Gruppe, and a six year old who has continued on to Albert Einstein Academy. Although I was born in Stuttgart Germany, I moved to the states when I was almost four and was raised in the Baltimore/Washington area. Die Rasselbande has been such an amazing opportunity to pass German language and culture on to my children. We adore the school's philosophy of play based and child led learning, in which both our children have thrived. I feel very fortunate to have been a part of the board during this past year, working together to uphold the school's values, while navigating such an entirely unexpected and complex time

I am a Physical Therapist, running my solo practice Verafied Pelvic Health and Physical Therapy, and also enjoy exploring San Diego with my family, surfing, playing the violin and tending to our backyard urban garden.



  Sarah Thomas


Sarah Thomas is originally from the D.C. suburbs and has lived all over the world.  She chose Die Rasselbande for her children because of its great reputation and her strong belief in and love of learning languages.  She is fluent in Spanish and Turkish and gets around in many other languages. 

Sarah and her husband, Todd, moved back to San Diego from South Korea in March. They have two children, ages 2 and 4. She is also a Court-appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for children and works with abused and neglected children to make sure they do not get lost in the overburdened social service system. In her spare time, Sarah loves yoga, eating and drinking, reading, and travelling.

Professionally, she is a naval officer and works in Coronado.  When she retires from the U.S. Navy in 2020, she will return to school to earn a Master’s of Social Work and become a therapist. She is excited about the opportunity to become more involved in the decisions affecting our kids’ education.

 Tom Darlington

Die Rasselbande has been a wonderful place for our daughters thanks to the fantastic staff and the volunteer efforts from the rest of the community. I have seen how the play-based approach to early education allows children to flourish as they follow their own interests while developing the critical interpersonal skills which are the foundation for healthy relationships long into the future. I am a scientist by training and have experience managing many aspects of small businesses in the local biotech community as well as nonprofit organizations. I am honored to have served on the board of Die Rasselbande for the past 4 years as part of such a wonderful community.


Lara Besser 

Lara grew up in the La Mesa area and has lived in San Diego most of her life. She received her bachelor’s degree from Azusa Pacific University and her Juris Doctorate from California Western School of Law and has been a practicing law since 2012. Lara specializes in representing California employers in defense of class, representative and collective actions, as well as individual employment litigation. She also assists California employers in complying with California labor laws. Lara and her husband, Hendrik, have a two year old son who attends Rasselbande Preschool, and a new born baby girl. In their free time the Besser’s enjoy visiting family in Germany, traveling, hiking and camping. Lara was elected to Rasselbande’s Board of Directors in October 2019. She looks forward to serving the school, meeting and working with the parents, and contributing to advance the goals of the school.

Jil Rudolf-Vazquez

My name is Jil Pia Rudolf-Vazquez and I am a former Rasselbande teacher. I was born and raised in a small town near Frankfurt am Main, Germany. In 2008 I moved to Innsbruck, Austria for my undergraduate studies in Psychology and Political Science, while working as a public relations assistant for the Austrian sister team of the Oakland Raiders and an event manager. As a student I had the opportunity to work with children in different settings, which made me realize that I wanted to work with children for the rest of my life. In 2012 I moved to San Diego for my graduate studies in Political Science at SDSU. After graduating in 2014, I joined Die Rasselbande as an Assistant Teacher (Bären group), which motivated me to take further classes in Early Childhood Education to compliment my Psychology Bachelor. In September 2017 I became the lead teacher in the Löwen group and in Spring 2020 I graduated from SDSU with a M.S. in Child Development and a Graduate Certificate in Early Childhood-Transdisciplinary Education and Mental Health.


In September 2019 my husband and I became parents of a little girl named Ida, who is growing up in a multicultural, -generational and -lingual (German, Spanish, English) household. Although I had planned to come back to Die Rasselbande after my maternity leave, our personal situation did not allow me to do so. Die Rasselbande will always hold a special place in my heart. I loved working there, miss my preschoolers, and would love to give back to the community. I am a huge defender of play-based learning, free-play, child participation and including children in decision-making. As a former employee, child development expert and multilingual parent, I think I am a great addition to the Rasselbande board.

Erica Zietzsch

Hi! My name is Erica and I am Karl's mom. Karl will be 4 this November and is in his third year at die Rasselbande. He was in the Affengruppe the first two years and is currently a member of the Tigergruppe. We, along with my husband, Marko, moved to San Diego in September of 2018. The 6 years prior to that, we were living in Ingolstadt, Germany. My husband and his family are from Saxony, so we try to speak German at home and my husband speaks German to Karl. It was a great delight that we found Die Rasselbande and have really enjoyed the two years in the school. I am excited about the chance to be a member of the board. It's important to me that I play an active role in Karl's educational upbringing. 

I'm originally from Michigan and studied at Wayne State University and earned a Bachelor's degree in history. In Germany, I earned another Bachelor's degree in retail management. Currently I work as the Coaching Community Coordinator for ActionCOACH Business Coaching, here in San Diego. However, I have worn many hats, from working in retail, to reading EKGs to working with a retina specialist. I look forward to the opportunity to help positively influence die Rasselbande in any way that I can!