SailAway Learning Staff


SailAway currently serves over 1,000 unique students in East Tennessee and fills an unparalleled educational niche in the region. SailAway staff bring over 100 years of combined educational experience from a variety of backgrounds.

Brenda K. Murphy, Ph.D.

Founder and President

Brenda Murphy earned a PhD in Education, Educational Psychology focus, from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; an MBA from Lamar University; and BA from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro in speech and theater. Dr. Murphy’s dissertation research examined the application of design thinking to teaching a struggling reader successfully. 

Dr. Murphy founded SailAway in 1994 with her husband Russ, a broadcast journalist. The company grew out of her work homeschooling their five sons. Her interest in reading skills acquisition led her to develop the SailAway literacy curriculum, upon which SailAway Academy’s philosophical foundation rests.    

Dr. Murphy lives out her mission to Serve All In Love through her commitment to support all teachers—whether in public, private, and home schools—by sharing her deep knowledge of the art and science of teaching through professional development, personal consultation, and mentorship. She encourages teachers, parents, and students to experience new possibilities through her belief that they each possess undiscovered gifts and talents. 

When not researching or writing, Dr. Brenda loves teaching her grandchildren SailAway, especially cursive writing, and reading with them. She enjoys big family get-togethers with her sons, daughters (in-law), and nine (and counting!) grandchildren, and cooking favorite family dishes for them.

Nathanael B. Murphy, B.A. Psy

Chief Executive Officer

Nathanael is a dedicated educator and a distinguished graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, where he earned a B.A. in Psychology with minors in Philosophy and English. He is passionate about helping young people achieve academic success that enables them to thrive in higher education and/or pursue their personal career aspirations, particularly in entrepreneurship.

With years of professional experience, Nathanael has honed his skills in directing volunteers, managing global technicians, and working in the healthcare industry by pursuing higher education at DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine (DCOM) to better understand physiology and “mystery illnesses” and their impact on education and career advancement. He operates at the intersection of solid tactical leadership and analytical thinking.

Nathanael envisions SailAway as a global resource for all disadvantaged cultures and peoples of the world, where every child has the opportunity to achieve academically by implementing a customized curriculum prescribed to their unique level, strengths, and weaknesses based on psycho-educational evaluations.

In his free time, Nathanael enjoys experimenting with AI and completing “missions” during playtime with his sons. He enjoys outdoor activities such as fishing, hunting, target shooting, and homesteading. He views himself as a “rational” environmental activist who advocates for better biodegradable products to replace “throwaway plastics” that end up in our oceans, local watersheds, and are simply unsightly.



Katie Geasland, B.A. History, Certified Teacher

Director of Operations

Katie Geasland is from Knoxville, TN and attended Pellissippi State Technical Community College where she earned her Associate’s Degree in History, graduated from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville with her Bachelor’s Degree in History, and earned her teaching certification in Secondary Education from Lincoln Memorial University. Katie has a deep passion for education and learning and believes that anyone can learn! In fact, she knows this to be true through personal experience, not only as a student but as an educator. Katie has taught several different grade levels ranging from Pre-K to 12th grade as a substitute teacher, interim teacher, and worked in early childhood education for four years. 

Katie met Dr. Brenda through her husband and his family; the two families have known each other for the better part of thirty years! In fact, her husband was one of Dr. Brenda’s first students outside of her own family. As they say, “the rest is history!” 

In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and her family doing various activities from board games, reading books, to seeing movies. Katie strives to shine the Lord’s light and love through everything she does and believes strongly in shining her light. Matthew 5:14-16

Patti Jo Gross

Director of Homeschool Operations

 Patti Jo Gross brings over 16 years of ministry, 10 years of homeschooling, and many more years experience of early child learning to her role as Homeschool Umbrella Director at SailAway. It is her goal to make every family feel the way SailAway made her feel on her own homeschool journey with three of her four daughters – relieved, empowered, and assured that they can do this!

Patti Jo loves date nights with her husband, family nights with her four daughters, deep conversations, and laughing with people until her side hurts. Some of her most rewarding times are taking someone’s hand as they walk through the valley. She absolutely loves celebrating people, because she believes people are so worth celebrating! Her love language is Diet Coke and chocolate.

Shane Goad, Ed.S.

Licensed School Psychologist

Shane Goad is a licensed school psychologist, counselor, and teacher. Shane provides psychoeducational evaluations for SailAway using nationally recognized assessment instruments.

After completing his Bachelor’s degree in mathematics education at Cumberland College, Williamsburg, KY, he vigorously pursued his Master’s and Educational Specialist degrees at Tennessee Technological University, Cookeville, TN. He has sixteen years experience in the Tennessee public and private school system, as an elementary and middle school teacher, school counselor, and school psychologist.