DRIVING CHANGE IN THE WORLD
Projects, Multiple Viewpoints and Enacting Positive Change
Our project based approach to teaching and learning frames projects on interdisciplinary, meaningful, and current real world problems. Students have the opportunity to explore current issues by speaking with a diverse range of experts and consulting sources that articulate a variety of viewpoints. Students explore media literacy and critical thinking as they evaluate and make sense of divergent perspectives on the specific issues they choose to dive deeper into, while connecting these issues to curricular content and skills. Speaking with experts and communities impacted by these issues allows them to generate a more nuanced understanding of content, with empathy. By investigating the larger context of the issues they are exploring, students engage in a design process to iterate, prototype and test possible solutions, towards doing or producing positive change. With constant feedback from peers, teachers and experts, students revise, reflect and tell the story of their learning journey, failures, successes and major discoveries.
Making a Positive Impact in the World
In the fall of 2016, the senior class of Tahoe Expedition Academy was asked to design a class service trip on their own. As a crew, they decided that with the turmoil in the Middle East and the refugee crisis in Europe, they would travel to Greece to volunteer with PRAKSIS, a non governmental organization that provides social and medical services for refugees. The goal of the trip was to understand and help refugees forced to flee their own country to find safety elsewhere.
At the culmination their Learning Expedition titled “Move, Adapt, or Die: The Life and Times of a Syrian Refugee,” students produced this short documentary film, which illustrates the challenges of current Syrian refugees in Greece. They also created a Facebook page to spread awareness of the plight of refugees in Greece and to support the PRAKSIS aid organization and all of the volunteers they met along the way. If you are interested in supporting PRAKSIS, their donation portal is here with details on how your support would be used.
HIGH SCHOOL ACADEMIC PROGRAMMING - FOUNDATIONS COURSES
These classes are directly aligned with National Standards for the core content areas (Math, Science, History, English). These classes include individually-paced opportunities as well as one-on-one and small group instruction. Teachers target specific skills within these classes to support Real-World Projects through foundational class content.
9th and 10th-Grade Foundation Courses
9th grade foundation courses: Biology, Integrated Math I (students will be placed into a math class based on their previous math course), Social Studies - Human Geography, English and Language Arts, Spanish I, II, III, IV.10th grade foundation courses: Chemistry or Physics (depending on math level), Integrated Math II (students will be placed into a math class based on their previous math course) Social Studies - Modern World History, English & Language Arts, Spanish I, II, III, IV.
11th and 12th-Grade Foundation Courses
11th-grade foundation courses: Physics or Earth Science (depending on math level), Integrated Math III (students will be placed into a math class based on their previous math course), Social Studies - U.S. History, English and Language Arts, Spanish I, II, III, IV.12th grade courses: Earth Science or Chemistry (depending on math level), Calculus or Statistics (students will be placed into a math class based on their previous math course), Social Studies - U.S. Government, English and Language Arts, Spanish I, II, III, IV.
These courses are an essential component of both student choice and academic support. Intensives are courses lasting from five to eight days in which students are engaged in either an in-depth study of a topic or intensive academic support. They are offered at the end of the fall semester so that students failing one or more courses have the opportunity and support to complete their work. Students passing all courses choose from a menu of multi-grade level intensives.
Semester-long, interdisciplinary curricula that use a topical lens and specific case studies to explore content in depth and engage with real-world learning, problem solving and skills development.
Individual Senior Projects
In the spring, students in 12th-grade create and pursue their own integrated course of study during the last semester of their senior year called the Individual Senior Intensive, which tackles a real world problem. This long-term academic endeavor can involve language acquisition and volunteerism or other opportunities within respectable and faculty-approved boundaries and is intended to provide students with an opportunity to demonstrate what they are capable of doing and producing to have a positive impact on their lives and the world.
Field Studies, Experts and Service
Real World Projects embed and integrate field studies, experts and service learning into a larger curriculum unit. Beyond the classroom walls, students engage in acts of service, locally, nationally and globally. During field studies, they collaborate with local organizations, engage with relevant experts and contribute to their community through entrepreneurship and volunteerism. By giving and intentionally directing their efforts, intellect and resources to where it can benefit the greater good, students become active citizens in their communities. Advisors and teachers guide students through this process during their school career, which culminates with a Senior Project.
MEET OUR AMAZING HIGH SCHOOL TEACHERS
Our faculty and staff empower students to question, think, explore and lead. Relationships between our students and teachers are paramount to creating a community of care, service, and commitment. To learn more about our faculty and staff please click below.
Beth Valarino | Middle and High School Humanities Coach + Crew Leader
Beth was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. After she graduated from high school, she attended a small college in New Hampshire for a year and a half before moving back to Hawaii to finish her undergraduate degree. During her college years she participated in four separate study abroad programs that took her all over the world. She studied French and Environmental Science in Tahiti, sailed around the Marquesas Islands learning through a lens of Pacific Archaeology, and sailed around the world two times while taking college classes through a program called Semester at Sea.
After she graduated from college, her life and teaching career took her on a journey teaching and living abroad. After spending ten years teaching at private international schools in Central America and in the Middle East, she returned to the United States where she taught at a college preparatory school in the Pacific Northwest before moving to the Reno/Tahoe area.
Beth is excited to embark on her fourth year teaching at TEA, and her 15th year teaching. Her passion for life and love for adventure resonates through the experiences and opportunities she provides for her students. In Cairo, Egypt, she spent four years facilitating an outdoor education program in addition to classroom teaching. She organized sandboarding trips to the Fayoum desert, windsurfing trips to the Red Sea, horseback riding to the pyramids, and trips into lesser known Oases outside of Cairo’s city sprawl. One of the highlights of her teaching life was returning to Cairo in June 2018 to surprise her former students at their High School graduation!
Some of Beth’s personal interests include reading, writing, surfing, stand up paddling, cycling, mountain biking, hiking, running, snowboarding, traveling, floating rivers, and spending time with her golden retriever and wife. She’s been to over 50 countries, ran two half marathons, and has summited Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya, and Mount Meru.
What inspired you to join TEA? Working at TEA has inspired a daily practice of gratitude and self-reflection. It’s helped me to look at mistakes or missteps as areas for growth, rather than areas of being small. It’s helped me to ask myself “What can I learn from this? How can I grow? What more can know or learn in order to be successful next time?”
Where did you go to school? Chaminade University, BA in English, MAT, and MEd in Education and Teaching
Do you have any special certifications? WFA Certified
What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? I love car camping, and we have a glamping set up that could rival a stay at the penthouse suite at The Four Seasons!
Matt Morrison | Dean of Students + Middle and High School Humanities Coach + Crew Leader
Matt’s passion for teaching came from his time as a snow board instructor at Northstar. Though he enjoyed instructing adults, it was the kid groups that truly made him smile. Life had other plans though, and Matt put his ideas of teaching on hold while working in the private yacht industry, plying the waters of the South Pacific during the winters and cruising around New Zealand during the summers. He ended up going back to school to get his teaching degree in New Zealand and worked in a local elementary school as a 4th/5th grade teacher for 2 years before moving back to the USA. Once back home in 2012, Matt joined TEA where he taught 5th grade for 6 years before making the transition to the Middle School and High School in 2018. Matt was thrilled to join the Middle and High School team and have the opportunity to focus in on his love of history, while also helping to solidify the Middle School as an integral part of TEA.
What inspired you to join TEA? Seeing my kiddos come home from school each day with smiles on their faces and stories to tell.
Where did you go to school? University of Waikato / Graduate Diploma in Teaching; Sierra Nevada College / BS in Business Administration
What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? I have logged over 26,000 nautical miles at sea.
Loren Trux | Middle and High School Math & Science Coach + Crew Leader
Loren earned his California Multiple subject Teaching Credential from Chico State University and is currently working toward a Waldorf teaching certificate. During his most recent teaching experiences in Waldorf education he discovered many alternative methods for reading instruction and teaching techniques. Loren discovered his passion for working with children at a day camp in Tahoe City more than fifteen years ago and is very excited to be doing what he loves in Tahoe once again. He is eager to learn more about the expeditionary model and looks forward to sharing his ideas with the communiTEA.
He also enjoys many outdoor activities including mountain biking, kayaking, fishing and exploring nature with his family. Loren likes to play music and work making things with his hands. He lives in Kings Beach with his wife Ashley and daughter Iyla. Loren believes that a teacher’s task is to help each student reach their greatest potential. To do this he must be a guide, and companion in the pursuit of knowledge and the pursuit should be authentic for the student and teacher.
What inspired you to join TEA? The opportunity to help kids reach their greatest potential.
Where did you go to school? California Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from Chico State University
What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? I am an avid blacksmith and teach a blacksmithing class at TEA’s summer camp.
Merinda Zywicz | Middle and High School Spanish & Humanities Coach + Crew Leader
Merinda is from California and grew up spending time exploring and playing in the Sierras. She studied International Development with a focus on Latin America and Political Ecology. Her studies focused on trying to find solutions that balance the social, environmental and economic needs of the world, which makes her very excited to be at TEA where students grapple with those problems regularly. She has spent time working with non-profits that tackle these challenges in Ecuador, Chile and Costa Rica.
Prior to working at TEA, Merinda worked as a ski instructor and naturalist in Tahoe. These jobs helped her realize her passion for teaching kids in settings where they are empowered to learn through their own experiences and pursue their curiosities. Merinda also spent a year in Madrid, Spain where she studied Spanish and worked as an au pair to foster language acquisition for the three young girls in the family.
Teaching Spanish at TEA is a culmination of many of Merinda’s personal interest and she is excited to share her passion for the value of language with the students. Outside of TEA Merinda loves to ski, run, climb, bike and generally take advantage of the outdoor opportunities in Tahoe.
What inspired you to join TEA? TEA’s approach towards framing learning as a way of tackling real world problems as well as their acknowledgment of the value of learning through experiences.
Where did you go to school? University of California Berkeley, Bachelors in International Development with a focus on Political Ecology in Latin America
What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? I have skied in more countries than states.
Katy Watts | College and Career Counselor + Registrar
Katy was born and raised in the Bay Area and has been happily working with teenagers since 2002, after she earned her MA in School Counseling and PPS from Chapman University. After 3 years in public schools in the Bay Area, she moved to the Middle East (Bahrain) in 2005 to focus on college planning and guidance, where she worked with international students seeking admissions to universities not only in the US, but in Australia, Europe, Canada and anywhere else they could imagine. She has also worked with students from low income and first generation backgrounds. Most recently she has been an external freshman reader for a top UC. Well versed in public, private and Ivy League colleges and universities, Katy also has experience with recruited athletes.
After working for eight years in two competitive private high schools in Houston as an Associate Director and Director of College Counseling, she and her husband and two children moved back west in 2015. She is starting her 4th year at TEA as the college counselor and was honored to help graduate the classes of 2017 and 2018 with 100% acceptance rates to college. Her focus has always been on guiding students in finding the right social, academic and financial fit for college. Katy continues to stay current on admission trends by attending local, regional and national conferences and visiting colleges and universities around the US.
Eric Martin | Athletics and Activities Director + Real-world Intensive Coach
Eric graduated from Salisbury University 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. The summer following college, Eric was drafted by professional lacrosse teams in New York and California. After spending time on both coasts Eric made San Francisco home for the next 8 years, that is, while he wasn’t flying to/from or playing lacrosse games across North America. Eric enjoyed a nearly 10 year professional lacrosse career in the National Lacrosse League and Major League Lacrosse. Eric was a member of the US Men’s National Team that won the 2010 World Championship in Manchester, England. He’s a member of the Salisbury University Athletics Hall of Fame. Eric started working at TEA at the beginning of the 2011/12 school year. Prior to moving to Tahoe, Eric worked in sales and marketing within the sport and manufacturing industries. He directed and coached One City Lacrosse, a non profit that introduced lacrosse to underserved youth in San Francisco. He also co-founded and ran a lacrosse camps business. Eric believes that athletic participation and competition define character and perseverance. Eric will draw from his extensive professional background to help students discover and pursue their athletic passion.
What inspired you to join TEA? The opportunities and challenges that Lake Tahoe and its surrounding lands provide to everyone willing to step out of their comfort zone.
Where did you go to school? Salisbury University, BS in Business Marketing
Do you have any special certifications? High Sierra Lacrosse Board Member, Wilderness First Responder
What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? I’m a better cook than you.
Greg Wright | Marketing and Communications Director + Real-world Intensive Coach
Greg’s path to joining TEA was through the world of action sports. Prior to TEA, Greg was at the helm of an influential action sports publishing network whose titles included Freeskier Magazine and Snow Board Magazine. His particular area of expertise is branded content production and distribution, and he’s found an impactful application for that skillset at TEA. From our TEAFilms.org program to our yearbook, website blog, social media, and monthly feel-good email newsletters, Greg may have earned the title “Chief Storyteller” at TEA.
What inspired you to join TEA? The opportunity to use storytelling and content distribution to influence kids to solve real-world problems and advocate for causes they believe it.
Where did you go to school? Sierra Nevada College, BS in Business Administration with an emphasis in Ski Area Design, Layout and Management.
What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? I love to cook and have even won competitive cooking awards for my pork green chili (that’s made with 100% jalapeños).
Ken Martin | Finance & Operations Director + Title IX Coordinator + Middle and High School Math & Science Coach
Ken is a lifelong student & practitioner of leadership and management, having led teams in several military, corporate, & non-profit environments. Ken derives immense satisfaction from helping people use their talents to accomplish goals. Ken is deeply grateful for the opportunity to contribute to a school where the students are enthusiastic learners, where the teachers and staff are creative and passionate, and where the entire community pulls together time after time to support this unique and powerful program.
What inspired you to join TEA? Seeing students learn what they’re capable of when they’re tested by adversity. Seeing confidence, self-knowledge, passion, and purpose develop in students.
Where did you go to school? Vanderbilt University BE Chemical Engineering and University of Houston – Clear Lake MBA
What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? I love to sing, mostly in quartets & choruses, having performed for thousands of people in many different settings, from elementary school classrooms to nursing homes, theatres and sports venues including the NHL Predators at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. As a teenager, I performed at the Palace Theater at Six Flags in St. Louis, MO. Most recently, I’ve performed with Nashville’s Music City Chorus in the 2018 BHS International Chorus Contest in Orlando, FL, placing 5th.
Laura Quarin | Middle and High School Program Facilitator + Humanities Coach + Crew Leader
Though originally from Canada, Laura’s love of exploration and travel have taken her all over the world. Laura has been fortunate to live and work in Canada, Australia, Panama, Egypt and now the United States. She has taught a variety of academic subjects, served as an athletic director in two different countries, worked as the humanities specialist and principal at a small school outside of Vancouver, British Columbia, and had an incredible first year at TEA as the Middle and High School Student Support teacher. Through Laura’s experience in various educational contexts, she has developed a passion for facilitating opportunities for young people to learn and grow in ways that inspire them. Her experience has taught her that given the right levels of engaging content, emotional support and academic challenge, all students can grow toward their own unique potential. Laura is a lifelong learner who follows her curiosity into historical non-fiction, through travel to new places and into the mountains as often as possible. She is grateful to have the opportunity to continue living out her passion for actively exploring the outdoors in the beautiful Tahoe area. Laura is in awe of the positivity of the entire TEA community and loves being a part of it.
What inspired you to join TEA? The incredible level of growth I’ve witnessed TEA students experience, both in their academic depth and character development, as a result of their emersion in real-world constructive adversity, is absolutely astounding.
Where did you go to school? Brock University – Bachelor of Kinesiology/minor in History; University of Wollongong – Diploma of Education; Western Kentucky University – Masters of Science in Athletic Administration
What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? Laura has summited three of the highest peaks on the African continent: Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya, and Mount Meru.
Mara Morrison | Co-Director + Middle and High School Humanities Teacher + Crew Leader
Mara Morrison was born and raised in Oregon. Whether it was skiing Mt. Hood, traveling the world with her family, hiking the Pacific Northwest or camping up and down the West coast, Mara spent her childhood taking advantage of the beautiful world around her. Mara attended the University of Oregon to earn a Bachelor of Arts in History. After graduating, she moved to Tahoe and enrolled at Sierra Nevada College where she earned her teaching credential in secondary social studies as well as a Master of Art in Teaching. Her master’s thesis focused on using primary and secondary sources to teach about social injustices throughout history. Mara is passionate about connecting history to current events and sharing the passion for learning that she enjoys with her students. Mara has worked in a variety of settings with students ranging in levels from Kindergarten through University. In 2016, Mara joined the faculty at Tahoe Expedition Academy and has been the high school history teacher, 11/12th grade crew leader, Dean of Students, and Middle School and High School Director. Mara is passionate about bringing real-world experiences to the students of TEA and ensuring they have the skills and abilities to leave TEA to become courageous citizens of the world. She was drawn to her leadership position in order to advocate and support students, parents, and teachers while contributing to the “magic sauce” of TEA.
What inspired you to join TEA? TEA allows teachers to bring curriculum alive in order to make learning fun, challenging, and applicable to the real world. Traveling for fieldwork with students allows them to dive deeper into content, work with experts, develop a multicultural understanding of the world, and allows the student and teacher relationship to develop. When I see TEA students alongside students from other schools I am always blown away by their social and emotional maturity. TEA allows us to bridge the gap between rigorous academics, social-emotional learning and character development, and real-world adventure. At most schools, it is hard to implement change, but at TEA we thrive on it because we live in a dynamic world.
Where did you go to school? University of Oregon, B.A. History + Sierra Nevada College, M.A.T.
What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? I love cooking and baking. I used to make wedding cakes and novelty cakes for special events.