Distance Education
designed for working professionals

MEET OUR DISTANCE EDUCATION FACULTY

GIA instructors are passionate educators who bring years of industry experience to the classroom. All are leaders in their fields, and all are dedicated to helping you gain knowledge, acquire skills and launch your career.

gemmology

Mariam Aboushadi

Fascination with diamonds and gemmology starts at the microscopic level for Mariam. She views the intricacies of every stone as gateways into its development and journey. With a B.S. in Biology, she approaches each stone with a meticulous application of the scientific method. Mariam started her career in gemmology as a Diamond Grader at GIA. Her commitment to excellence propelled her to becoming a Trainer and Quality Specialist. In these roles, she discovered her passion for teaching. Mariam enjoys sharing her knowledge with students so they can pursue their interests in the gem industry.

Lo Combs

Surrounded by gems and antique jewellery from a young age, Lo has always been fascinated with the industry. From polishing silver at her father’s antique business to watching the local bench jeweller at the jewellery store where her mother worked, Lo spent considerable time learning and observing the trade from the inside. After earning a B.A. in Creative Process and Aesthetics of Music Performance and Studio Art from the University of Redlands, Lo furthered her education at GIA by earning the Graduate Gemologist and Accredited Jewelry Professional diplomas. Her work as a jewellery consultant, as a diamond grader in the GIA Laboratory, and regular attendance of gemmological tradeshows demonstrates her commitment to the trade and desire to further enrich her knowledge and experience. Lo’s passion for gemmology fuels and inspires her role as an instructor, where she strives to give her students the best opportunity for success in their gemmological endeavours.

Headshot of distance education faculty member Bethany Crane

Bethany “Bess” Crane

Bethany’s love of jewellery began when she was very young, going through the jewellery collection her grandmother gathered on her world travels. Her father instilled in Bethany a love of art and antiques, and these interests often intersected. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Print Journalism from Utah State University. After learning of GIA and working in other industries for a time, Bethany knew that GIA was where she wanted to be to pursue her passion for gems and jewellery. After earning her GIA Graduate Gemologist and Applied Jewelry Professional diplomas, she worked in quality control and client services for several retailers. Bethany enjoys sharing her enthusiasm for gemmology with students and friends alike.

Faculty headshot of Michelle Jirkovsky

Michelle “MJ” Jirkovsky

A fourth generation jeweller, Michelle brings a unique set of skills and experiences to her dream role as a GIA Instructor. In addition to holding a bachelor’s degree in Art History from Stanford University and a Master of Art Business from Sotheby’s Institute of Art, she has also earned the GIA Graduate Gemologist and Applied Jewelry Professional diplomas at the GIA campus in Carlsbad. While studying law in Australia, she expanded her knowledge of precious stones by visiting opal and diamond mines, and briefly working on a pearl farm. As a certified appraiser through the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers, she later opened her own high-end jewellery boutique, Give Me a Ring, which specialised in bespoke bridal jewellery designs.

Michelle understands the unique challenges of virtual learning, having obtained both her FGA diploma from the Gemmological Association of Great Britain and the GIA Graduate Pearls diploma via distance education. She is grateful for the opportunity to pass her knowledge and passion for gemstones on to the next generation of gemmologists. In her spare time, Michelle enjoys mining, playing the harp, archery, travelling and spending time with her husband and three dogs, Ruby, Luna and Bella Luce.

Michele Lisso Faculty headshot

Michele Lisso

Michele’s fascination with jewellery began while working for a local pawn shop. Over the next 23 years, she helped build the small shop into a corporation with multiple locations and business functions. Throughout this time, she also managed and trained the sales staff. Intent on learning more about gemstones, she pursued her Accredited Jewelry Professional (AJP), Graduate Pearls and Graduate Gemologist diplomas through GIA as a Distance Education student. After graduating from GIA, Michele assisted other pawn shops with training staff, identifying gemstones and grading diamonds. When a teaching position became available at GIA Carlsbad, she knew instantly that helping students learn about gems would be a rewarding experience and the perfect fit for her interests.

Paul Mattlin

As Manager of Distance Education instruction at GIA, Paul brings a lifelong passion for gemstones and minerals along with more than 10 years of trade experience. Paul completed both the Graduate Gemologist and Graduate Jeweler diplomas, which he utilised extensively while working in retail jewellery sales and management selling luxury watches and owning a small boutique jewellery business that specialised in unique gemstones. With a background in web design and systems engineering, Paul is savvy about using technology to help students learn.

Daniela Pacheco

Daniela’s interest in natural geological formations started in her youth. She followed it by earning the Graduate Gemologist diploma and Accredited Jewelry Professional credential while working as a GIA diamond grader from 2014-2017. Daniela also loves the visual arts, and completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts at BIOLA University in 2014. Her favourite part of being an instructor is witnessing the “aha!” moment when students understand the gem identification process.

Glenn Wargo

Glenn’s passion for gems and jewellery started in grammar school when a family friend gave him a collection of rocks from around the world. He pursued his love of things gemmological in his youth by working as a bench jeweller apprentice and earning a Bachelor of Arts in jewellery design from Montclair State University. Glenn went on to work in sales for Fortunoff and Tiffany & Co, and received his GG from GIA in 1995. On teaching at GIA: “It allows me to give back to students what I’ve learned about designing, selling and studying. I enjoy teaching and watching students grow and develop their skills.”

Heather Weishaar

Heather’s interest in jewellery stems from her love of art and design. This led her to her first job as a jeweller’s apprentice. After attending the University of Arizona, her interest in gems and jewellery grew, and she earned the Graduate Gemmologist and Graduate Jeweller diplomas. Heather initially came to GIA with the intention of learning jewellery manufacturing and design, but ended up falling in love with gemmology. With a new-found interest in gemmology, Heather took a position as a wholesale gem sales representative and then managed a retail jewellery store. As an instructor, Heather shares her years of experience and love of gemmology.

Danielle Yamamoto

Dani’s interest in gemmology began during her childhood in the Mojave Desert, where she searched for rose quartz, obsidian arrowheads and geodes. She went on to earn a BA in English and taught secondary level English for the Los Angeles Unified School District. Danielle later pursued her childhood passion, earning the Graduate Gemologist diploma. Before becoming a Distance Education instructor at GIA, Dani worked in e-commerce diamond sales and at a brick-and-mortal jewellery retail store. She was also a diamond, coloured stone and Swiss watch buyer. Gem identification is her favourite part of the Graduate Gemmologist programme, because identifying a gemstone is like solving a small mystery. Dani says, “It’s fun and satisfying, and it’s a skill that makes a person valuable in the jewellery buying world.”

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