Co-Heads of School Welcome Letter
Ted Sizer was a living legend in the field of education when he passed away in 2009. In addition to founding the Coalition for Essential Schools, a movement that challenges long standing practices and assumptions about the functioning of American secondary schools, Sizer was the Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and an acclaimed author. He wrote Horace’s School and Horace’s Compromise, both great reads for those interested in the current state and potential future of education. He also taught at Brown University, where he designed the MAT Program and served as chair of the education department from 1983-1997.
Sizer’s Coalition of Essential Schools recognizes that no two schools are or should be exactly alike, yet it believes all schools should share ten common principles, which are the hallmarks of powerful learning communities:
- Learning to use one’s mind well
- Less is more, depth over coverage
- Goals apply to all students
- Student-as-worker, teacher-as-coach
- Demonstration of mastery
- A tone of decency and trust
- Commitment to the entire school
- Resources dedicated to teaching and learning
- Democracy and equity
At Tahoe Expedition Academy, our educational model practices these ten common principles:
- Our students learn meaningful knowledge and useful skills so they can use their minds well.
- Our Tahoe-centric Learning Expeditions teach fewer topics in more depth (i.e. Less is more).
- We define academic goals as learning targets, which apply to all students and guide our learning.
- Small classes ensure students are known personally and their learning is, in many cases, individualized.
- Teachers act as coaches for our students.
- Students showcase the authentic products that they create at public, community events like our Celebration of Learning.
- Character development is integrated into our curriculum, which helps build an environment of trust.
- We are committed to helping students of all ages.
- We have the resources necessary to teach and learn as a community.
- We demonstrate equitable democratic practices daily, inside and outside the classroom.
By using these practices in our school, Ted would be proud of our work. By adding adventure, character development, and a strong, supportive community into this mix, he might even be impressed.
Taylor Simmers and DC Larrabee, Co-Heads of School
Tahoe Expedition Academy was founded in January of 2011, when courageous parents and talented educators collaborated to create an adventure-based, experiential learning school for children in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The energy and momentum these individuals generated gave teachers, parents and students alike an opportunity to take education a new direction in the area – one that combined high-level academics with character building, nature and hands-on exploration and discovery. Along with devoted faculty, dedicated Board Members, generous families, eager students and a partnership with Expeditionary Learning, the school opened in September of 2011, with 72 students in PreK-8th grade.
Mission, Vision & Core Values
Tahoe Expedition Academy utilizes our unique natural setting as base camp to create an experiential academic environment where students journey toward their personal summits as courageous and respectful world citizens.
Meaningful academics, character development and outdoor adventure are the cornerstones of each child’s education at Tahoe Expedition Academy. Our co-educational academic community pursues the highest ideals of scholarship, and our exceptional teachers challenge each student intellectually in science, social science, mathematics, English, foreign language and the arts.
Character building is integrated into school each day and serves as the foundation for academic, personal and social achievement. By developing the traits of courage, respect, community, discovery and craftsmanship and by practicing the 5 R’s: Respect for oneself, Respect for others, Respect for the natural environment, Responsibility for one’s actions and Reflection, each child matures as a person and a citizen.
Our teachers incorporate adventure into the curriculum, take intentional calculated risks and use the natural environment as a classroom in order to create a peak state for learning. Most importantly, our hands-on approach to education ensures that students in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade are excited to come to school, passionate about being lifelong learners and well-prepared for future personal and academic pursuits.
We achieve our Mission and Vision by:
- Enrolling qualified, exceptional students who are curious, community-minded and courageous.
- Recruiting families and students who are the right fit for our school’s Mission and Vision.
- Creating and sustaining scholarly, engaging and meaningful academic programs.
- Developing in students our five core character traits of courage, respect, community, discovery and craftsmanship.
- Creating and sustaining adventure-based programs that promote the intellectual, social and physical growth of our students.
- Recruiting, hiring and retaining teachers who exhibit a passion for and experience with adventure, outdoor education and experiential learning, possess stellar academic credentials and demonstrate expertise in the appropriate field of study.
- Creating a centrally located, professional, environmentally friendly and safe academic campus with access to the natural environment in the Lake Tahoe Basin.
- Complying with Best Practices in regards to Risk Management.
- Producing a high-quality, high-value and sustainable educational experience for students.
- Engaging in creative, brand appropriate fundraising efforts in order to support special projects, building improvements and school expansion.
- Actively and consciously engaging the internal and external communities that Tahoe Expedition Academy serves.
The EL model is a well-established way of learning and currently serves 165 schools with over 44,000 students. Schools that use the EL model have test scores that exceed district averages, often by substantial margins.
In EL high schools, 100% college acceptance is the standard. Not only do students achieve at higher levels than their peers on state tests, but they also gain skills critical to college readiness and success — problem solving, critical thinking, persistence towards excellence, and active citizenship.
While the most important aspects of learning are not always quantifiable, our students and parents will be provided with feedback on their performance throughout the year through teacher interactions, report cards, and standardized testing.
Expeditionary Learning 3rd Party Research
Two recent studies further substantiate EL internal data with statistically significant findings showing evidence of EL impact on student achievement.
- Type: Quasi-experimental matched comparison group design
- Location: Rochester, NY
- Date: September 2010
- Author: UMASS Donahue Institute
Researchers found two important findings:
- Participating in an EL school resulted in substantial and statistically significant achievement advantages for elementary students in English/language arts and math, and for both years of middle school English/language arts.
- These statistically significant positive effects predict that, on average, enrollment in an EL school would have lifted 19% of non-EL students into the proficient category.
- Type: Quasi-experimental study
- Location: National
- Date: August 2010
- Author: Mountain Measurement, Inc.
Meaningful Academics and Real-World Learning – EL schools design meaningful curricula that prepare and train students for high-level academics. They create educational experiences that result in lasting knowledge, sound character and useful, transferable skills. EL Schools promote engagement through real-world learning, which focuses on relevant issues, self-directed topics, hands-on projects and high-quality products. They have strong fieldwork components, which integrate the teaching of core and enrichment subjects.
Learning Expeditions - Learning expeditions are the signature component of Expeditionary Learning Schools and the core component of our academic program, especially for upper grades. Learning expeditions make content come alive for children, with compelling topics and questions, hands-on fieldwork, experts, local case studies and service learning. At TEA, we align learning expeditions school-wide, throughout all of our Classroom Crews using the four primary elements: Fire, Water, Earth and Air. This structure allows for multi-age collaboration, vertical integration of curriculum and shared, high-quality experiences.
Building Character Traits - Service permeates the school culture both as an important element of academic achievement and ethical development. It fosters courage, respect, community, discovery and craftsmanship. At TEA, we are crew, not passengers. We guide ourselves, lead others and explore our local ecosystems and communities. Our unique approach to learning promotes the habits and character traits essential to academic and personal success in school and beyond.
Crewmember - Each student is a crewmember, not a passenger on this journey.
Portfolios - An educational portfolio is a collection of work samples and evidence of learning (teacher narratives, checklists, student interviews, photos, art, etc.) that each student will maintain throughout the school year. Portfolios travel with each child from grade to grade during their enrollment at TEA. The purpose of developing portfolios is for parents and children to have concrete and authentic documentation by which to measure the incredible growth our students will achieve from kindergarten to 8th grade graduation.
Adventure Education - TEA students can look forward to spending a significant amount of time in the field (about 1/3 of our school days) conducting fieldwork, completing service learning, exploring and pushing their physical limits and intellectual boundaries. For younger students, many of these experiential opportunities will take place in close proximity to the Academy’s facility. For students enrolled in second grade and up, they can look forward to more adventurous “rite of passage” experiences in the Lake Tahoe Basin that promote trust, cooperation and community. The latter runs the spectrum between three-day, two-night car camping trips to five-day minimalist wilderness backpacking adventures.
Expeditionary Learning’s 10 Design Principles
Expeditionary Learning is built on 10 design principles that reflect the educational philosophy, values and beliefs of Outward Bound. We promote and enact these 10 Design Principles throughout learning expeditions and within the school community.
1. The Primacy of Self-Discovery
Learning happens best with emotion, challenge and the requisite support. People discover their abilities, values, passions, and responsibilities in situations that offer adventure and the unexpected. In Expeditionary Learning schools, students undertake tasks that require perseverance, fitness, craftsmanship, imagination, self-discipline and significant achievement. A Crew Leader’s primary task is to help students overcome their fears and discover they can do more than they think they can.
2. The Having of Wonderful Ideas
Teaching in Expeditionary Learning schools fosters curiosity about the world by creating learning situations that provide something important to think about, time to experiment, and time to make sense of what is observed.
3. The Responsibility for Learning
Learning is both a personal process of discovery and a social activity. Everyone learns both individually and as part of a group. Every aspect of an Expeditionary Learning school encourages both children and adults to become increasingly responsible for directing their own personal and collective learning.
4. Empathy and Caring
Learning is fostered best in communities where ideas are respected and where there is mutual trust. Learning groups are small in Expeditionary Learning schools, with a caring adult looking after the progress and acting as an advocate for each child. Older crew mentor younger ones, and crew feel physically and emotionally safe.
5. Success and Failure
All students need to be successful if they are to build the confidence and capacity to take risks and meet increasingly difficult challenges. But it is also important for students to learn from their failures, to persevere when things are hard, and to learn how to turn disadvantages into opportunities.
6. Collaboration and Competition
Individual development and group development are integrated so that the value of friendship, trust, and group action is clear. Students are encouraged to compete, not against each other, but with their own personal best and with rigorous standards of excellence.
7. Diversity and Inclusion
Both diversity and inclusion increase the richness of ideas, creative power, problem-solving ability and respect for others. In Expeditionary Learning schools, students investigate and value their different histories and talents as well as those of other communities and cultures. Schools and learning groups are heterogeneous.
8. The Natural World
A direct and respectful relationship with the natural world refreshes the human spirit and teaches the important ideas of recurring cycles and cause and effect. Students learn to become stewards of the earth and of future generations.
9. Solitude and Reflection
Crew and Crew Leaders need time alone to explore their own thoughts, make their own connections, and create their own ideas. They also need to exchange their reflections with other crew and adults.
10. Service and Compassion
We are crew, not passengers. Students and teachers are strengthened by acts of consequential service to others. One of an Expeditionary Learning school’s primary functions is to prepare students with the attitudes and skills they will need to learn from and be of service to others.
TEA Faculty, Staff and Volunteers
Taylor Simmers, Co-Head of School, Middle School Teacher and Founder
Over the course of his career in education, which began in 1995, Taylor has worked with students in K-12th grade in a variety of locations and types of schools across the country. He has taught, coached, designed curriculum, led outdoor education programs and served as a school administrator. For the past eight years, Taylor has lived and taught in Lake Tahoe and developed an appreciation for and an understanding of the developmental needs of students in their formative years.
Taylor possesses a solid background in academics, athletics and adventure. As a student, Taylor earned his B.A. in English from Princeton and a Masters in Education from Brown University, where he embraced Ted Sizer’s constructivist approach to teaching. As an educator, Taylor believes authentic products, meaningful academics and outdoor experiences create long lasting knowledge and important skills for children. To help start a school that combines these educational components has been a dream come true. As an athlete, Taylor won two National Championships in lacrosse at Princeton University, where he earned All-American and Scholar All-American honors. He also played lacrosse professionally for the Philadelphia Wings and the San Francisco Dragons and has directed numerous lacrosse camps throughout the West since he moved to San Francisco in 1999. For the past ten years, Taylor has guided adventure-based trips for students throughout the American West, where he currently enjoys backcountry skiing, mountain biking and climbing on his own time.
D.C. Larrabee, Co-Head of School, Director of Environmental Science & Adventure Education and Founder
D.C. Larrabee is a Tahoe Basin teaching legend. Around here, he's known as the "Pied Piper" of teaching. He's able to synergize academic instruction with the outdoors like no other. As many parents can attest, D.C. has a gift for motivating children to embrace learning.
Born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, D.C. has an affinity for the mountains and enjoys sharing his passion with friends, students and family. D.C. has been working in the classroom and leading children on experiential education trips in the Sierra and to the Pacific Coast for more than ten years. He has a wealth of experience designing curriculum that has inspired thousands of children to dare to know more about the world around them and their place in it. D.C. has a Bachelors Degree in Humanities and a Masters degree in Elementary Education from Sierra Nevada College.
Laird Blackwell, High School and Middle School Humanities
Laird received his PhD in Education and Psychology from Stanford University in 1974. After moving to Tahoe a few years later, he taught at Olympic Valley School (now Squaw Valley Academy) for a couple years before becoming a Professor at Sierra Nevada College. After 31 years there teaching various courses in psychology, literature, writing, and mythology, he retired in spring, 2012. He was honored by students as "Professor of the Year" on numerous occasions over the years.
He is an avid hiker and photographer with a special love of wildflowers--he has written (and done the photography for) several wildflower field guides. His latest--Wildflowers of California: A Month-by-Month Guide--was released in May, 2012 by University of California Press.
He lives with his wife Melinda and their menagerie of horses, alpacas, llama, miniature donkey, ducks, chickens, cats, dogs, and parrot in Washoe Valley, where Melinda leads equine therapy and educational programs for at-risk kids.
Laird has an exceptional collection of old books (yes, those hold-in-your-hand artifacts of years gone by!) specializing in 19th century mystery, detection, and fantasy. Although he is looking forward to retirement reading, as his former students suspected, he seems unable to completely retire--he's excited about sharing some of his passions and experience one morning a week with the students at Tahoe Expedition Academy.
Erica Crane, 9th Grade Crew Leader and Upper School Program Director
Erica Crane has been passionate about education, adventure, and athletics for as long as she can remember. As a child she spent her time relentlessly exploring the woods behind her home in rural Connecticut and as an adult she has done the same with the world. At Columbia University, Erica earned a BA in psychology and a MA in Physical Education while also volunteering throughout New York City. She put her experiences in social justice, passion for being active, and her education to use by helping found a health and fitness based Expeditionary Learning high school in the South Bronx. Eventually working at every level of the school, she was determined to provide her students with opportunities to grow their self-efficacy through challenge and chances for authentic, relevant learning. When athletic opportunities did not exist, Erica dedicated herself to creating a diverse varsity program that grew to become one of the most successful small athletic departments in the city. She has coached one of the top 20 cross country teams in all of NYC, a Manhattan borough championship track and field team, a squad of wrestlers taking the mat for the first time, and runners ranging in age from 4 to 19. After living in a Land Rover for a year on her own expedition around Australia, Erica returned to EL to become a School Designer in the Northeast. She prefers the off-road and the open water when running, swimming, triathloning, hiking, playing outside, and traveling. Erica is excited to join the TEA community and to empower high schoolers to be changemakers and leaders of their own adventure-based education.
Matt Morrison, 4th/5th Grade Teacher
Matt's first experience with teaching was during his time as a snowboard instructor at Northstar right after graduating from college; he had the opportunity to instruct both adults and children, but found that his great interest was in instructing kids. It was this enthusiasm that led him to lead the 5th grade program at Northstar, as well as Northstar's first Snowboard Outreach Society event, which catered for "at risk" kids. A call to adventure saw Matt work in the private yachting industry for the next 6 years, which led him all throughout the islands and cultures of the South Pacific and to New Zealand, where he settled down with his Kiwi wife. In 2009, Matt's excitement for teaching led him back to school to get his NZ teaching degree, and a full time teaching position at Leamington School in NZ upon graduation.
During his 2 years teaching 4th/5th grade classes at Leamington School, Matt saw the importance and power of education outside of the classroom. "The amount of powerful learning that occurred during our annual 3 day class camp and 1 day field trips while at Leamington never ceased to amaze me. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to engage in this type of teaching and learning culture at Tahoe Expedition" Matt's interests outside the classroom include snowboarding, hiking, running, sailing and spending time with his wife and 2 daughters.
Matt has a Bachelor's Degree in Business and Entrepreneurial Venture from Sierra Nevada College and a Graduate Diploma in Teaching from the University of Waikato.
Brenda Gants, 2nd/3rd Grade Teacher
For the past 14 years, Brenda has been teaching young children ranging from Pre-K to early elementary age. As the Assistant Director of a local Pre-kindergarten, she developed a deep appreciation for childrens' individuality as learners that has infused her teaching ever since. Most recently, Brenda spent 3 years teaching a multi-age 1st/2nd grade class at a charter school in Santa Cruz, CA. With a focus on early literacy, her teaching was inspired by Montessori and Project Based Learning models. The high level of parent involvement at that school allowed her to develop great respect for parent partnerships and a sense of school as a community center.
A Jersey-girl at heart, Brenda left her NJ roots behind when she discovered Tahoe on one of her many cross-country road trips. She has spent at least 2 consecutive nights in 48 states, traveled to Europe, Peru and Indonesia, and has never found anywhere she loves as much as the Tahoe Sierra. Brenda and her husband spend time mountain biking, hiking, skate skiing, paddleboarding, swimming and camping with their young son, Owen. Brenda also enjoys dancing, yoga and telemark skiing (despite her extreme lack of ability!).
Brenda holds a BA from Rutgers University and a Masters degree in Teaching from Sierra Nevada College, where she focused on 2nd grade expository writing.
Stephanie Ellison Gibbons, 2nd/3rd Grade Teacher
A graduate of Salem State University, Stephanie has a Bachelors of Science degree in Early Childhood Education. Certified and licensed in Massachusetts and Nevada, she has fourteen years of teaching experience in grades K-4. Stephanie is well versed in curriculum development. She has experience and training in the Columbia Teachers College Writing Process as well as Fountas and Pinnell’s reading instruction. A supporter of the “Responsive Classroom” technique, Stephanie’s vision of an effective classroom is based on a foundation of setting rigorous academic standards that are guided by frequent assessments of student achievement. She combines collaborative, authentic learning and individualized instruction to help each student reach his or her full academic and personal potential.
Stephanie’s extensive experience in the classroom coupled with her love of the outdoors and her passion for rock climbing, yoga, camping and hiking, make her a valuable addition to our Expeditionary faculty.
Melanie Cooke, 1st Grade Teacher
Melanie is passionate about music, outdoor adventure and teaching reading. In addition to her multiple subjects teaching credential, Melanie holds a music credential and certifications as an Orff Schulwerk and Music Together® teacher. She plays guitar and flute and enjoys singing.
Melanie is an accomplished outdoor enthusiast with experience as a backpacker, wilderness survivalist and backcountry camp counselor. She is married to a Park Ranger, which gives her ample opportunity to spend time in the outdoors.
Melanie has taught first and second grades as well as preschool in the past, and has always held kindergarten in a special place in her heart. She holds a minor in linguistics with an emphasis on teaching early childhood literacy. She especially enjoys the creativity and challenge of teaching reading. Melanie enjoys providing a fun, positive and engaging learning environment. She and her students love coming to school.
“I believe that teachers should teach what they are passionate about. That passion for learning will be contagious.”
Rosie Striffler, Kindergarten Teacher
Rosie believes that every child has unique strengths, abilities, and passions that can be accessed through dynamic interaction. She graduated from Sierra Nevada College with a B.A. in Humanities and a concentration in Psychology. Rosie is currently working towards her Master’s Degree and is writing her thesis on Strengths Based Education in the ESL classroom.
Rosie began her teaching career at Tahoe Safe Alliance as a Violence Prevention Educator, where she had the opportunity to teach Kindergarten through High School, and a series of classes at UNR. Soon after, she received her Nevada Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and Teaching English as a Second Language endorsement. Over the course of the past two years, Rosie’s teaching has been focused on language acquisition, phonics, writing, and math skills for Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd graders.
Rosie’s childhood was spent on a small organic apple farm in Watsonville, CA, where she spent most of her time outdoors finger-painting, exploring, and just getting dirty. Her current interests and creative outlets are painting, writing poetry, yoga, sustainable living, and enjoying the beautiful local outdoors.
Lorenzo Worster, Pre-School Teacher
Lorenzo places a high value on educating the whole child. He believes that instilling a passion for the outdoors can not only compliment the academics of education, but enhance them. His life was forever changed when he attended the Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale, CO during his last two years of high school. He experienced firsthand that when students are authentically inspired to become active participants in their learning community, the content becomes meaningful and the lessons derived make a life long impact. It is now his mission to foster an environment where students thrive and the passion for learning becomes ever-present.
After receiving his undergraduate degree from University of Colorado in Environmental Studies and a minor in Scandinavian Studies, Lorenzo moved to Tahoe and fell in love. Lorenzo, his wife and three year old son live in Truckee. He is an internationally renowned telemark skier who also loves the world class climbing, biking, and kayaking that this area has to offer.
Lorenzo received his teaching credential from Sierra Nevada College and is currently working towards achieving his Masters in Elementary Education.
Anne Chippendale, Pre-School Teacher
Anne Chippendale has been a teacher and coach in the Lake Tahoe area for almost 30 years. Anne earned her Teaching Credential from University of Nevada, Reno while coaching the Squaw Valley Ski Team and facilitating swimming lessons at the Truckee Pool. Soon after, she began teaching at the State Preschool in Kings Beach, where she developed a fun and creative multi-cultural program for her students and families. Prior to Tahoe Expedition, she spent four years at Creekside Cooperative Charter School.
Outside the school environment, Ms. Annie loves traveling and seeing the world beyond our immediate reach. She volunteered and cheered for our local athletes at the last two Olympics (Italy 2006, Vancouver 2010), has skied in Argentina and enjoys biking and hiking in our backyard, on the Tahoe Rim Trail.
Ms. Annie, as she is affectionately called by all who love and appreciate her, wholeheartedly believes that education is much more than classroom academics. She encourages the opening of doors to explore our environment, other people and cultures. With a positive outlook on life, she believes a well-balanced person will thrive, and in turn, benefit those around them as well as the future of our world.
Before moving to the area, she spent her childhood in Palo Alto and earned a Degree in Human Development from U.C. Davis.
Joe Taylor, Art Teacher
A Kings Beach local, Joe spearheaded the North Tahoe Boys and Girl’s Club art program and has served as its Director for the past four years. Joe has a proven track record as a community servant and works extremely well with children of all ages.
His experience, enthusiasm and knowledge of his craft make Joe an extremely valuable asset to our community. His love for his subject and background knowledge are the ingredients that are necessary to give our students the skills to identify with their innate ability to recognize beauty while they practice a passion for the aesthetics.
Emily Tessmer, Music Teacher
Music is the light of Emily's life. She has been writing, recording and performing music for 17 years with much love and dedication. In addition to songwriting/producing, she also enjoys singing her favorite inspirations, which span 4 decades, and she is passionate about leading sacred chanting gatherings, which are also known as Kirtans.
She just completed her latest release entitled “The Seven Sisters” which features a taste of all the directions the river is carrying her in these days ~ original compositions, sacred music and inspirations from some of her musical foremothers/forefathers. She believes that we are living in very special times where sharing your light with the world is of the utmost importance. Music is the language of the heart, which transcends all time and space, and with a gentle hand can remind one of their divine essence. Music is the mother of all science.
Danielle Redlin, Spanish Teacher
Danielle was raised in a bilingual/ bi-cultural family and is native to the Reno/ Tahoe area. After graduating from UNR with a Bachelors of Liberal Arts, she was accepted into the Masters of Secondary Education program at UNR. She has completed the licensure portion of her Masters and is expected to graduate with her Masters of Education in 2014.
Danielle has studied and worked abroad in Mexico and Costa Rica. She is passionate about travel and learning about cultures around the world. Danielle has experience teaching all ages of children ranging from preschool on up to high school and adults too. She is an enthusiastic addition to the Tahoe Expedition academy and is excited to share her love of the Spanish language and culture with all of her students.
Eric Martin, Athletic Director and After School Programs
Eric graduated from Salisbury University, located in Maryland, in 2004 with a BS in Business Marketing. At Salisbury, Eric had a standout lacrosse career -- winning two National Championships in 2003 & 2004 and was named the 2003 & 2004 National Defenseman of the Year and the 2004 National Player of the Year. Following college, Eric was drafted by a professional lacrosse team in San Jose and has made the Bay Area home for the past 8 years. Eric also won the 2010 World Championship in Manchester, England with the US Men’s National Team.
Over the past few years, Eric founded a lacrosse camp, travel team company and started a non-profit in San Francisco that exposed inner city youth to lacrosse called One City Lacrosse.
Eric believes that team and individual athletic pursuits manifest life’s core values and experiences. He will draw from his extensive athletic background to help students discover and pursue their athletic passion.
Jessica Larrabee, Operations Manager and Founder
Jess, born and raised in Los Angeles, CA, has had an eclectic career after earning her undergraduate degree at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, CA. She has owned and operated 2 successful businesses, a restaurant in Mammoth Lakes, CA and an adventure education and wilderness therapy company in Lake Tahoe. Jess has also enjoyed a 35 year career in technical rock climbing, including ascents of Sentinel and El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Jess discovered that climbing instilled self-esteem and confidence building, which she loves sharing with children and adults alike.
Jess, along with her husband and their 4 children, moved to the Tahoe area from Mammoth Lakes, CA 12 years ago. She has worked in education for the past 7 years, as a Librarian, Facilities and Office Manager and bus driver. She is a founding member of the Tahoe Library Coalition, which promotes and supports literacy in children and adults around the Lake as well as a founder of Tahoe Expedition Academy.
Jess is thrilled to be helping students instill confidence, self-reliance and citizenship as future change makers and leaders of the world.
Khal Pluckhan, Business Manager
Khal is a native of Guyana, South America. She has a BS in Finance from Seton Hall University and a Masters in Finance from Fairleigh Dickinson University, both in lovely New Jersey. Her career began at Macy’s East in New York City where she held various finance positions in advertising, visual merchandising and capital planning. She then worked as Brand Finance Manager at Bayer. She capped her corporate career by working in the bio-tech and R&D divisions of Pfizer in several financial capacities.
Khal and her husband have 3 boys, All three of which will be attending the school in the fall. Her family moved to Tahoe to take advantage of snow skiing, golfing, and the summers! She is very excited to work in an environment where she is involved in her children’s education.
Caroline Kaplan, School Counselor
Caroline Kaplan is pleased to serve as a volunteer guidance counselor for Tahoe Expedition Academy. Since 2005 Caroline has been volunteering and interning as a counselor in various schools around the Lake Tahoe Basin. For the past three years, she has been supporting Incline High School’s counseling department by serving as their grief counselor and assisting with mentoring students on career/college planning.
Caroline graduated with a Master’s Degree in School Counseling and Educational Psychology from the University of Nevada, Reno. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Music Performance.
Caroline and her husband, Jim, have two daughters, Lily (first grade) and Hattie (pre k 4). The couple moved to Lake Tahoe in 2003 and they are thrilled to be raising a family in an environment that encompasses both outdoor and indoor exploration and creativity. Fortunately, Tahoe Expedition Academy has come to fruition and we are grateful and proud to be a part of this wonderful community.
Amy Cecchi, Resource Specialist
Amy is happy to be back to work doing what she loves most - teaching, testing, and helping adults recognize what amazing learners all children can be. Insistent that private school teachers should have more support in differentiating for their students, Amy is volunteering at Tahoe Expedition to help our exceptional staff meet the diverse needs of all learners.
Amy started teaching in 1993 as a high school journalism intern. After completing her BS in English at the State University of NY at Binghamton, she returned to school in CT to get her teaching certification in comprehensive special education (birth to 21 years, all disabilities) and her Masters in Education. Amy worked for 12 years with regular and special education students in elementary, middle and high schools. Amy is trained in academic assessment, identification of special needs, inclusion of students with disabilities, remedial math and reading programs, challenging gifted and talented students, as well as regular math, reading, writing and social skills instruction.
Amy is incredibly thankful for this opportunity to work with such stellar teachers and outstanding young learners.
Currently, we are accepting applications for future positions in our K-8, Middle School and High School. If you are interested in learning more information about our positions or joining our TEAm, please send a cover letter and resume to Taylor Simmers firstname.lastname@example.org
Tahoe Expedition Academy 2013 Promo Video Long
What is Tahoe Expedition? Just ask our middle schoolers.
Fantastic job on 'How to be a Kids Expert on Tahoe WILDfire' Check it out! Several local organizations plan to start carrying it in their visitor centers. Even our Kinder and 1st graders had their own publication! Written and illustrated by them and printed on a local printing press. Be ready to be impressed.
Check it out! Tahoe Expedition Academy (TEA) made a huge commitment to the sport of Biathlon by training and outfitting 13 student athletes, fourth through eighth-grade for the school’s inaugural Biathlon team.
Tahoe Expedition Academy
8651 Speckled Ave. / Box 1272
Kings Beach, CA 96143-1272
(530) 546-LAKE (5253)
How many children attend and how are the grades structured?
We have nearly 100 students in the 2012-2013 academic year from Prek-8th grade. We are adding a 9th grade for 2013-2014. Currently, our class breakdowns are: PreK3, PreK4, K, 1, 2/3, 4/5, 6/7/8, though we are in the process of reflecting on these combinations, which may be adjusted in the future in order to provide the best possible learning environment and outcomes for students.
Research shows that children who participate in a multi-age classroom are equally strong in academics v. those in a separated classroom, but rank much higher in self-esteem and confidence. Kindergarten and 1st grade are split into two different groups based upon the significant difference in ability level between Kindergarten and 1st grade. With low student ratios, we will have one of the most "learner centered" educational programs in the region.
What is the drop off and pick up times for the school?
K-5th grades run from 8:30-2:45. The middle school runs from 8:15-3:00. The PreK runs from 8:45-2:45. We provide care for the younger children who are dropped off early and picked up later than their schedule because of older siblings.
Where are you located?
We are located at 8651 Speckled in Kings Beach. Our building backs up to Forest Service property.
What is Expeditionary Learning?
EL is a chartered entity of Outward Bound, focused on project-based, hands-on learning in a school environment. They have 165 schools across the nation and 17 years of experience honing their approach to education. EL schools often significantly out perform the district in which they reside and are frequently the top performing schools in the state. You can see the great results EL schools produce here.
What can you tell me about the curriculum?
Tahoe Expedition Academy offers a skills-rich, project-based curriculum that is developmentally appropriate. Instructional content and practicum is based on state standards, both California and Nevada, as well as National education standards for science, math and the humanities. As an independent school, Tahoe Expedition has taken the liberty to create thoughtful programs that put theory into practice.
Kindergarten through Second Grade students work in an environment that is rich in literacy, numeracy and play. Kindergartners are held to a high academic standard, but are allowed the freedom that is necessary to be industrious and identify with themselves as individuals. While Kindergartners are exposed to core knowledge in a semi-informal setting, First and Second Grade students practice a standardized math and language arts curriculum that is complemented by a variety of experiential and adventure education opportunities which address concepts that relate to science, social studies, art and music as well as mental health and well being.
Formalization of instruction occurs when students reach Third Grade. As was true with the Kindergarten through Second Grade, math and language arts are formalized. Experiential education and field studies are in abundance and homework is not a staple, but the level of academic rigor during the school day is stepped up significantly.
Fourth and Fifth Grade provides students with the opportunity to test their own boundaries and assume a greater level of responsibility for their actions. Students participate in overnight backcountry trips and collaborate with older students on the development of community service projects.
Middle School students work in an intense environment of trust that allows them to push their intellectual and physical boundaries. Proficiency in mathematics is emphasized. Although students were exposed to high quality literature in the lower grades, Sixth through Eighth Grade students are introduced to titles and genres that excite their minds and allow them to identify and communicate their individual interests and beliefs. The student-centered, student-guided approach that was used in the lower grades continues to be the pedagogical modus operandi. Here the environment of play is replaced by intentional risk taking that facilitates the realization of each student’s potential. Curricular expectations require the completion of a reasonable amount of homework.
High School students work in a collaborative, highly academic and hands-on setting. Their instructors are experts in their field, proven educators and passionate individuals who bring adventure and authentic, project-based learning to their students. As with our PreK-8 curriculum, our teachers derive the lessons, activities and projects from standards, yet they have the creative license to design relevant, engaging and purposeful academic work for our students. High School students can be expected to conduct a significant amount of extended field studies locally, nationally, and, in their older years, internationally.
Will you be offering enrichment classes?
Yes, we offer Spanish, Music, and Art to all students in K-8 multiple times a week. Prek takes music and art as enrichment classes.
Will there be homework?
Due to recent research that does not support the efficacy of homework in grades K-5, we do limit required homework. Middle School students do have homework, but we believe the majority of work should be completed during the school day.
How do you handle technology in the classroom?
We encourage our students to be comfortable with the use of technology. Tahoe Expedition’s project-based curriculum promotes interaction with computer-based technology while performing research, collecting and analyzing data, composing written works, delivering presentations and the creating of art. Other forms of technology are integrated into the curriculum in the form of models and tools, both scientific and otherwise.
What about PE?
The curriculum naturally brings in physical education through interaction with the outdoors. Educational experiences such as snowshoeing, day hiking and overnight backpacking, promote fitness through organic means. We will not be holding traditional PE classes during the school day, but do have a regular, structured time for athletic opportunities and have an Athletic Director who runs our Cross Country, Biathlon, and Track & Field teams, and we have After-School Clubs that involve physical activity such as mountain biking, rock-climbing and lacrosse as well as a Ski Local Program in the winter that encourages skiing or snowboarding. Finally, we encourage our students to participate in local organizations, teams and activities to ensure their physical exercise and activity.
Are all subjects integrated into the project-based curriculum approach?
No. There are some subjects like science, language arts, social studies, social science, art and music that all work very well with a project-based approach. Math and Spanish do not naturally fit into the project-based approach and are handled separately.
Do you have some examples of types of Expeditions other EL programs have done?
Yes. We definitely do. You can see examples here.
What program do you use for math?
We have experience with several different math methodologies, but we like Saxon Math the best. We appreciate the fact that it continues to hit upon a handful of skills, continuously spiraling to reinforce the child’s understanding fundamental mathematics concepts.
How would you define yourself?
We are a private, PreK-8 Expeditionary Learning school which focuses on the practical application of skills in project-based academic environment. Tahoe Expedition does not believe that primary learning comes only from a textbook. We do not teach to the test; we teach to character, real-life academics and the future. For some, it's easier to understand what we are not. We are not a parent run co-op, Spanish immersion, home school, or a public charter school.
Why didn't you become a public charter school?
We explored the opportunity to become a public charter through Washoe County. Given all of the IB debate, they were not interested in taking on a charter school at this time. Plus, with 25% cutbacks coming in the state of Nevada, it would have been difficult to accomplish on a budgetary standpoint.
I understand that there is an Expeditionary Learning public charter school in Truckee. How are you related to them?
Yes, there is Sierra Expeditionary Learning School in Truckee. While it runs independently, it is part of TTUSD and requires students to participate in a lottery to attend. It is so popular that there were 400+ kids left on the wait list from last year's lottery. They have great teachers and are doing some wonderful things. Like SELS, we are a member of Expeditionary Learning, a national organization.
My child is a gifted child in math. Does she need to stay within her own grade?
No. If your student demonstrates thorough knowledge of the subject matter her class is covering, then she can move to the grade appropriate for her level, as we conduct an hour long common math block, which allows students to be placed in the class appropriate for their ability level.
Is the same true for language arts?
We work to make sure that your child is working at his or her appropriate level in language arts as well. The curriculum is differentiated to provide an appropriate level of intellectual rigor.
My child is struggling as an emerging reader. How do you handle that?
We have an amazing resource within the school, Amy Cecchi, who has extensive experience teaching special needs students. She can assist children who need extra help as well as provide student assessments.
Why did you decide to use Expeditionary Learning as your educational approach?
We did an in-depth analysis of different programs in relation to key factors, including, but not limited to, approach to learning, experience in the field, test scores, scalability, and appropriateness to the area. We are in 100% agreement that EL is the right direction for us for our K-8 grade levels.
How do you handle discipline?
We expect respectful and appropriate behavior from our students. We are proactive about discipline and student behavior by teaching the 5 R’s and Character Traits on a daily basis during our Morning Messages. If behavior becomes a problem, the teacher assigned to that child will reach out to the parents for an initial meeting. If the problem cannot be solved between the parents and the teacher, then a Director will have oversight as well.
How is the administration of the school be handled?
D.C. Larrabee and Taylor Simmers are responsible for faculty oversight and accountability. As a small school, the need for administration is limited. Rather than focusing fiscal resources on governance, we have consciously made the choice to focus our dollars towards hiring and retaining quality faculty, maintaining our accreditation with Outward Bound as an Expeditionary Learning School and providing students with rich experiential opportunities and state of the art resources.
We also have an Office / Facilities Manager, a Business Manager and a Director of Marketing, as well as a handful of parent volunteers, to help to handle the day to day and the administrative needs of the school.
Will my child be going on Adventure Education trips?
Absolutely! We believe that Adventure Education is key to a child's experiential education and take advantage of excellent opportunities to expand our student's knowledge through trips away from the classroom environment. This is not a comprehensive list, but should give you an idea of potential offsite field studies:
- Kindergarten and First Grade: Taylor Creek, Animal Ark, Chickadee Ridge, Spooner Lake & Tyrolean Beaver Ponds
- Second Grade and Third Grade: Wilbur May Museum, Sand Harbor, Truckee River Oxbow, Lahontan Fish Hatchery & Grover Hot Springs
- Fourth Grade and Fifth Grade: Chaw Se – Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park, Yosemite – Saddlebag Lake, Brockway Summit – Tahoe Rim Trail, Donner Memorial and Summit & Nevada Museum of Art
- Middle School: Desolation Wilderness, Tahoe Rim Trail & San Francisco
What is the admissions process?
Admission to TEA is open to students PreK through Grade Eight for 2012-2013. We will be expanding to the 9th grade in 2013-2014 as our first high school class. Please go here for more details on our Admissions Process. Our primary goal in admission is to have a student body that is eager and able to achieve academically in an experiential learning environment.
How can I get my child on the admissions list or to learn more?
Contact us at email@example.com or call us. We would be happy to give you the information you need to get started on the process.
How much is the tuition?
Kinder - 8th Grade tuition is $13,000/year for 2012/2013. PreK3 is $4,200/yr for Tues/Thurs. PreK3 is $6400/yr for Mon/Wed/Fri.
Do you have any scholarships?
We find ourselves to be especially lucky to have 10 partial K-8 scholarships available for next year through the generous creation of the Explorers Fund. This is a scholarship program that is not run through our school but by the Parasol Foundation. If you are interested in applying for a scholarship, please contact us and we will direct you accordingly at firstname.lastname@example.org
How do I reserve a spot for my child?
Once the application process is complete and your child is accepted into Tahoe Expedition, we require a non-refundable deposit of 15%. Please go here for more details on our Admissions Process.
Are you a non-profit?
Yes, we are a 501(c)3 non-profit. All donations to our school are tax-deductible. Our Tax ID# is 27-5379571.
You are starting as PreK-8. Will you grow into high school?
Yes. Our first high school class will be 9th grade starting in 2013-2014.
What is your nutrition model?
We model and promote good nutrition, and we have a program called Dine-in-Day, which occurs every Friday and involves cooking and eating healthy, sustainable foods, to help us achieve this goal. Our Nutrition Guild prepares the menus for this program, and our students help prepare the food for those students / families who sign up.
Further, we perform some investigations in the lower grades that have to do with caloric exchange, which physically demonstrate how varying types of food fuel the human body. The lower grades also participate in a program called Harvest of the Month that introduces new and sometimes unusual vegetables and fruit to their palate.
Will you be doing standardized testing?
Yes, we do standardized testing for grades 3-8 in the spring. We use the ERB CTP (Comprehensive Testing Program), which assesses skills related to reading, writing, mathematics and science.
With all of the outdoor outings that the children participate in, are there any staff that have their 1st Responder, W-EMT or woofer for medical in case there is an accident?
Risk management is a major concern for us. We have at least one Trip Leader with a WFR on each outing. All trips have a pre-visit reconnaissance so that risks can be identified and venue specific itineraries can be developed. We have emergency and evacuation plans for backcountry trips and focus on the ability to maintain communication. As sometimes we do not have cell service, we carry a satellite phone.
Will you have after school ski programs with the local ski areas?
Our students are shuttled to both Northstar and to Diamond Peak on Thursday afternoon ski days. Students not wanting to ski are also welcome to stay at school for enrichment activities or participate in ski teams at their own resorts.
Will my child be given grades?
Yes, we provide performance assessments to parents and do periodic teacher/parent meetings throughout the year, each student has a folder with report cards and grades and we keep transcripts for students during their career in Middle School.