Through Academic Excellence, Character Building and Real World Adventures
Tahoe Expedition Academy’s engaging academics and real world adventures empower students to reach their full potential by cultivating intellectual growth, character and confidence. We integrate adventure-based learning within an academic environment, instilling both confidence and achievement for our students. We call it Constructive Adversity, and it’s what sets our school apart.
Our core subject areas include English Language Arts, Math, Science, STEAM (Science / Technology / Engineering / Arts / Math) and Social Studies. Students learn core academics and the arts through multidisciplinary projects to gain a deep understanding of the subject matter. In this respect, we teach both breadth and depth – breadth in the sense that students learn a wide range of content and skills and depth because they regularly have the opportunity to apply the learning in real-world contexts.
Character development, service learning and leadership training are important elements for academic achievement, social emotional learning and ethical development. At TEA, “We are crew, not passengers,” and each student is a member of a crew. In these small, supportive groups, each student is known well and engages in the proactive cultivation of character and leadership. We help students nurture character values and practice meeting adversity head on so our graduates have the courage and intestinal fortitude to “survive and thrive” when things get tough.
Adventure is an integral component of our program and we have intentionally created more regularity, accessibility and intensity of our students’ adventures inside and outside the classroom. We spend one third of our time in the field working with experts and engaging firsthand. Both in the classroom and on field studies, teachers serve as mentors and guides; challenging, supporting, and inspiring. Moreover, our talented faculty encourage students to take calculated risks, produce quality work and realize their potential as scholars.
Learning Expeditions Drive Our Curriculum - TAHOE WILDFIRE EXPEDITION
Our students get to experience things “exhilarating and so amazing.” That’s an actual quote about a student’s learning experience. Needless to say, this 6th Grade Crew’s “WILDFire” expedition will never be forgotten.
WHAT SETS OUR SCHOOL APART
Crew Meeting and Closing Circle
Every day begins and ends with a crew meeting and closing circle. This is a way to make every child feel included, to greet one another and to center themselves in the learning environment, to resolve any social issues, to address any concerns and to come together as a community.
Expeditions and Fieldwork
Our experiential teaching style also impels teachers and students to go into the field to learn from experts using a hands-on approach. Teachers work with students to build background knowledge around their topic during expedition time and then take the students into the field to see the real-life application. They return to the classroom to make sense of their experiences and learning.
These are mixed-age classes focusing on life skills such as sewing, blacksmithing, dancing, ceramics, and stewardship. Students choose their guilds in the beginning of each semester and enjoy mixing up the social dynamic through fun Friday Afternoon activities.
The entire Lower School gathers “campfire style” in the woods behind the school to share their learning, to reflect upon the week, and to give appreciations to their peers.
Meet Our Amazing Lower School Teachers
Rosie Striffler | Kindergarten Crew Leader
Rosie believes that every child has unique strengths, abilities, and passions that can be accessed through dynamic interaction and experience. She spent her childhood outdoors exploring her family’s apple farm and brings that spirit of “barefoot” nature exploration to her students. Over the course of the past 8 years, Rosie’s teaching has been focused on nature, science, physics, and social/emotional exploration, language acquisition, phonics, writing, and math skills for Kindergarten. She was first exposed to education by her mother who is a 35-year preschool teacher veteran. As an adult, Rosie began her teaching career at Tahoe Safe Alliance as a Violence Prevention Educator, where she taught Kindergarten through High School and a series of classes at UNR. She graduated from Sierra Nevada College with a B.A. in Humanities and a concentration in Psychology and has also received her M.A. in Teaching. Rosie focused her thesis on the importance of an education that is based on individual students strengths. When she is not teaching she is soaking up life in the Sierra’s or traveling to distant lands.
What inspired you to join TEA? Exploring in nature with children and being students of the unknown together. Being able to teach children about the importance of protecting the planet and each other.
Where did you go to school? I have B.A. in Humanities with a concentration in Psychology and an M.A. in Teaching from Sierra Nevada College.
Do you have any special certifications? 6 + years WRF certified, Nevada Teaching Credential, Student Teacher of the Year 2009-Sierra Nevada College, Fund for Teachers Recipient 2016- Peru “Save the Frogs” Eco-Adventure, certified Waldorf Approach for Public Schools teacher Rudolf Steiner College -2014, shamanic meditation teacher/intuitive.
What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? I am an artist! I use acrylic/recycled dry acrylic/recycled paper/canvas as my medium. Through my art, I explore the range of human emotions that happen during experiences and relationships through shapes, colors, and images.
Brenda Gants | 1st Grade Crew Leader
Brenda Gants has been working with young children for over 20 years. Her experiences range from being the Assistant Director of a local Pre-Kindergarten to teaching 1st – 3rd Grades in the Lake Tahoe Area as well as in Santa Cruz, CA. Although she has loved the various schools at which she taught, Brenda regards her time at TEA as the most rewarding she has experienced across her entire career. Brenda is very committed to strengthening herself as an educator. She has recently completed a year-long Teacher Induction Program at San Diego State University in topics such as Technology in the Classroom, Special Education, and Teaching Diverse Learners. In 2012, Brenda completed her Master of Arts in Teaching degree, with a focus on 2nd and 3rd-grade informational writing. In her year of completion of the MAT program, Sierra Nevada College awarded her the top honor for Outstanding Project. Brenda loves that her experience at TEA has allowed her to creatively cultivate her instructional and management skills and given her the opportunity to participate in planning curriculum that is well aligned across disciplines. As a teacher, Brenda loves weaving science and social studies concepts into Readers’ and Writers’ Workshops. Outside of the classroom, Brenda’s favorite thing to do is to hop in the car and take a road-trip adventure with her husband and 6-year-old son, Owen. They often don’t know exactly where they’ll end up, what they may end up doing or who they may meet! Both on-and-off the road, she enjoys skiing, dancing, hiking, kayaking, cooking and going on animal-observation journeys with her family.
What inspired you to join TEA? Getting to help students reflectively take ownership in their own learning and while inspiring them to be adventurous innovators.
Where did you go to school? Rutgers University, Psychology and Sierra Nevada College, M.A. Teaching.
What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? I have slept 2 consecutive nights in 48 out of 50 states (Alaska & North Dakota are the ones missing!).
Colleen Carr | 2nd-Grade Crew Leader
Colleen has been teaching for more than seventeen years. She grew up in the Bay Area but spent a great deal of time in Tahoe during her childhood. Her parents ski-patrolled at Mt. Rose and instilled in her a love of skiing and the Lake Tahoe area. Colleen completed her undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and received her teaching credential from Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village. Throughout her years of teaching in her own classroom, Colleen has proven to be a reflective practitioner who pursues continued learning and applies innovative teaching strategies to design and implement unique and differentiated instruction to meet students’ needs in both academic and social areas. Colleen’s pursuit of knowledge and expertise is on-going and includes work with the Teacher’s College of New York, the Center for Childhood Creativity, Making Math Real, the Gifted Foundations Institute of Texas, and the California Reading and Literacy Project. Her curricular expertise and knowledge of meeting the needs of all learners will translate into effective support for both the teachers and students of TEA. Outside of school, Colleen is excited to enjoy all the area has to offer with her husband Rob, their son Macklin and their dog Jake. She will most likely be found skiing with her friends and family, paddling on a lake, or hiking out the endless trails.
What inspired you to join TEA? Having spent the majority of my career in public education, joining the communiTEA has been a breath of fresh air. The way that students learn here is incredibly inspiring and I am honored to be part of the impact, not just locally, but hopefully to a broader audience. As a parent, I have been blown away the impact that TEA has had on our son the last two years. He is inspired, passionate about his learning, and love, love, loves school.
Where did you go to school? University of California, Santa Barbara Bachelor of Arts Psychology. Sierra Nevada College Teaching Credential
Do you have any special certifications? California Clear Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, Teacher’s College of New York Reading and Writing Project, the Center for Childhood Creativity Institute, Making Math Real Training, the Gifted Foundations Institute of Texas, the California Reading and Literacy Project, CLAD Certified, WFA Certified
What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? I can handstand walk up and down stairs.
Debrah Arriola-Jacobson | 2nd-Grade Crew Leader
Debrah is thrilled to be a part of this inspiring communiTEA. She has spent much of her life moving around. She was born in Florida, lived in Sweden as a young child, and then was primarily raised in Virginia. She attended James Madison University for undergrad where she studied Psychology, and then attended Arizona State University for her Masters in Education. Debrah found her calling to education from a social justice perspective. She is an advocate for and firm believer that all children in the world have a right to attain a high quality education. This belief brought her to join Teach For America where she served two years as a corps member in Phoenix, AZ. After completing her commitment to TFA, she moved to Denver, CO to continue her career in education and seek a home that brought her closer to climbing, skiing and hiking. Debrah has spent three years teaching pre-kindergarten, one year teaching kindergarten, and then most recently spent three years as an Instructional Coach and Teacher Supervisor at an Early Learning School. She comes to us now having just returned to the US after one year of travel through Europe with her husband. Truckee and TEA already feel like home, and she can’t wait to see what this school year has in store for her and her crew.
What inspired you to join TEA? I am inspired by TEA’s emphasis on character, academics, and adventure. I am a firm believer that each of those three elements are equally important in holistically developing children. It is truly an honor to be joining this incredible community whose vision and mission is so seamlessly aligned with my own personal values and beliefs.
Where did you go to school? James Madison University, Bachelors of Psychology & Arizona State University, Masters of Education
What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? I am a black belt in Tae-Kwon-Do and Swedish was my first language 🙂
Marisa Capellan | 3rd Grade Crew Leader
Marisa’s interest in pursuing experiences “outside the box” began in her childhood. She grew up in a ballet studio donning pointe shoes instead of her now preferred hiking boots. As a former professional ballet dancer with the New York City Ballet and Miami City Ballet, with several film and stage acting credits, Marisa still holds a deep love for the performing arts and integrates her experiences and committed work ethic into her classroom teaching.
Soon after retiring from the ballet world, Marisa began her career as a classroom teacher in 2007. She holds a Masters degree in Early Childhood and Childhood Education as well as a Bachelors in Applied Psychology from New York University. She has taught in private and charter schools on both the East and West coasts as well as abroad in South Asia. Her areas of expertise include fostering growth mindset, identifying individual learning styles, encouraging cooperative learning, integrating kinesthetic learning and teaching mindfulness to children.
In 2012, Marisa moved to the Tahoe area from San Francisco after living in cities for the majority of her life. Living amongst the mountain landscape energizes and inspires her daily.
When Marisa is not at school, you can find her teaching yoga locally, volunteering with the Truckee Tahoe Humane Society, sport climbing, dreaming of her next backpacking trip in the High Sierra and spending time with her husband, Rich, and her dog, Dakota.
What inspired you to join TEA? I’m a lover of adventure, nature, and learning. The combination of the three makes for powerful, meaningful experiences and is the reason why I’m thrilled to be part of the communiTEA. I’m passionate about bringing students outside and allowing them to learn, explore, and form an authentic connection to the natural world.
Where did you go to school? Masters of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) from Manhattanville College, BS in Applied Psychology from New York University
Do you have any special certifications? M.A.T. in Early Childhood and Childhood Education, Clear California Teaching Credential, Member of California Kindergarten Association, certified to teach Yoga through the Yoga Alliance
What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? I was in the 1993 movie ‘The Nutcracker’ starring Macaulay Culkin.
Carolyn Highland | 4th Grade Crew Leader
Carolyn grew up on the Maine coast, and has been slowly moving west ever since. She studied creative writing and Spanish at Northwestern University, then moved to the Denver area to pursue a master’s in education and spent 3 years teaching in a bilingual 4th grade classroom, and has finally landed in Truckee. Carolyn has also spent time teaching English in a public middle school in Chile’s Atacama desert, working in a backcountry hut on Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, coaching middle school nordic skiing in Maine, and leading service & adventure trips for high school students in the summer for Adventures Cross Country. Any spare second she can get, Carolyn can be found backcountry skiing, trail running, mountain biking, backpacking, or climbing–she is a particular fan of long-distance sufferfests. She is also a freelance outdoor writer with work published in Backcountry Magazine, Misadventures Magazine, the NOLS blog, and the Teton Gravity Research website. Carolyn believes that lessons learned through outdoor experience are the most powerful, and feels honored to be working at TEA.
What inspired you to join TEA? TEA inspires me because it is an environment where students use their experiences outdoors and in the classroom to become better people, not just better students. I am excited to help mold a generation of problem solvers, critical thinkers, inspired creators, fierce advocates, environmental stewards, and empowered individuals who will create the kind of world I want to live in.
Where did you go to school? Northwestern University, BA in Creative Writing & Spanish, University of Denver, MA in Education w/ a concentration in Linguistically & Culturally Diverse Populations
Do you have any special certifications? Wilderness First Responder, AIARE Level 1, Fluent in Spanish
What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? I spent 3 months in New Zealand with the National Outdoor Leadership School sea kayaking, mountaineering and backpacking in 2012.
Callie Martin | 5th Grade Crew Leader
The two greatest joys of Callie’s life are teaching and her 3-year old son, Charlie. Both have provided her life with love, adventure and tons of laughter. She has been teaching on the central coast of California for the past 11 years. Although the Arts are her background, Callie also enjoys all things in the great outdoors. She spent her college years in San Francisco and her winters consisted of weekends leaving at 3am to hit the first runs at Heavenly, Northstar and Squaw. Backpacking, hiking, snowboarding and traveling with students have always been her favorite components of being an educator. These experiences are what ultimately brought Callie back to Tahoe and to TEA.
What inspired you to join TEA? In the past 11 years of being in education and schools I have been looking for a school like TEA! (Not knowing if something this idealistic existed!) TEA’s focus on academics, character and adventure being a part of every child’s education is exactly what I wanted for myself as a teacher and also for my son. Through this group of like-minded teachers, we manage to be unique perspectives, backgrounds, and knowledge to all grade levels at TEA.
Where did you go to school? Undergrad-San Francisco State University, BFA Painting and Art History, Masters in Art Education, Maryland Institute College of Art
Do you have any special certifications? Wilderness First Aid Certified, Member of National Art Education Association
What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? I am a unique hybrid of southern-girl demeanor and California cool
Susan Perry | 5th-Grade Crew Leader
Susan’s desire to challenge herself and live surrounded by beauty inspired her to move to Tahoe in 2016 after living in the Sacramento area for 38 years. After an unfulfilling career in event planning, graphic design, and public relations, she decided to go back to school again to become a teacher. Susan has her Bachelor’s degree in communication and business, and her Master’s degree in cross-cultural education. She has been a teacher since 2007 and has finally found her passion. She has taught every grade except third, including five years teaching high school students visiting from China. She loves the outdoors, especially kayaking, and anything to do with water. She is on a continuous personal journey to become a better skier and hiker and accept (as gracefully as possible) any other physical challenges that are thrown her way.
What inspired you to join TEA? I love the idea of constructive adversity–pushing kids out of their comfort zone, into their growth zone: academically, socially, and physically. This was something I hadn’t wanted to do personally, until adulthood and now has become a personal quest for me.
Where did you go to school? Undergrad-California State University, Sacramento: Communication Studies, Bachelor’s Degree. Grad–National University, Cross-Cultural Education, Master’s Degree
Do you have any special certifications? Certificate in Graphic Design
What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? I’ve been skydiving. Twice.
Mia Goldman | 6th Grade Crew Leader
Both in and outside of the classroom, you can find Mia taking an inquiry-based, constructive approach to life and learning. In Mia’s eyes, the natural world encourages endless scientific thinking and creativity in those who seek it, and both English Language Arts and STEM are mediums through which thinking and creativity can be honed.
Previous to joining TEA, Mia’s teaching experience comes from Santa Fe, New Mexico where she taught 5th grade and earned her teaching credential, a Guided Language Acquisition and Design Certification, and served as the Lucy Calkins Writing Coach.
Mia’s love of nature was cultivated early in childhood collecting crayfish, lightning bugs, and traipsing around the woods of Upstate New York pretending to be an explorer. Her love of exploring has led her to hike the Camino De Santiago and sections of the Washington PCT. Interest in wilderness survival and rescue has sparked various other stints of outdoor living and active membership on the Atalaya Search and Rescue team in Santa Fe. Mia has also worked in Eastern Oregon on a carnivore movement ecology project and in remote areas of Nevada on a population ecology project. She looks forward to engaging in the countless lessons the natural world has in store for her and the students.
What inspired you to join TEA? The commitment to constructivism in the classroom and zones of proximal development both in and out of the classroom.
Where did you go to school? Santa Fe Teacher’s Academy and a Bachelor of Arts from the Great Books program of St. John’s College
Do you have any special certifications? K-8 Teaching Credential, Guided Language Acquisition and Design Certification, Wilderness First Aid Certification, AIARE I, Rigging for Rescue Certification
What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? I sing Tenor I in the Nevada Gay Men’s Chorus!
Joe Taylor | PreK – 6th Grade 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.
Patrick O'Malley | Physical Education Teacher
Patrick grew up in Massachusetts spending more time outside than anywhere else, playing sports, adventuring through the forests, and exploring with friends. After graduating from Bucknell, he did a cross-country bicycle trip from California to New Jersey, raising over $1 million for his school. Soon after his trip, he went into the world of finance in NYC…which only lasted a few short years before his sense of adventure took hold once again and never subsided.
Since quitting his job in NYC, he has been a ski-bum in Colorado, lived and traveled across Europe, taught in Central America, spent a number of summers leading mountain bike tours in Alaska, and has recently come back from an eight-year stint in Asia where he started a school in South Korea and managed a high school in China. While doing all of this, he earned his Masters in Education, backpacked across most of Asia, played Ultimate Frisbee at a World-class level, and has helped raise money for different local passions in every country he has lived.
While in Alaska last summer, he was given an opportunity to come to Tahoe for the first time (ever!) to help some friends with an emerging business. While trying to figure out a life in Tahoe, he came across TEA has loved being a part of such a dynamic school! One job isn’t enough, however. When not TEAching, you can find Patrick giving adventure tours around the Lake, organizing sports and events for TCPUD, touring people around breweries on Tahoe, and everywhere in between! When he has a day off (rare) you can find him playing with his Ultimate Frisbee club team, taking advantage of EVERYTHING the Tahoe-area has to offer, or laying in a hammock with a crossword puzzle or a book!
What inspired you to join TEA? The fluidity. Having started a school, I understand how hectic scheduling and logistics can be, but I love how the TEA family goes with the flow and is more concerned with the EXPERIENCE over anything else.
Where did you go to school? Bucknell University – Accounting/Econ, Philosophy; Univ. of Missouri – Masters in Education
Do you have any special certifications? Wilderness First Responder
What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? I was once a CPA (not something I brag about, haha).
Katie Bloom | Elementary School Student Support Services
Katie was the 2nd grade Crew Leader at TEA 2014 through 2018. Now she is excited to teach students in her new role as our Literacy Specialist and Student Support Services Teacher. Her many years of teaching experiences, ranging from kindergarten through middle school English, have helped her become an expert in how students learn to read as well as identifying skills needed in struggling readers. Originally from Buffalo, NY, Katie is still a big Bills fan. Katie went to college at the State University of New York Plattsburgh, nestled in the Adirondack mountains. Her adventures in the Adirondacks made it easy for Katie to see that she always wants to live in a mountain town and are what sent her across country right after graduation. Katie lived in Mammoth Lakes for seven years, where her experiences as a recreation guide and ski instructor led her into the classroom. She has been happy to call Truckee home since 2009. Outside the classroom, Katie enjoys skiing, hiking, cooking, dancing, reading and spending time with friends and family. Having traveled to Canada, Peru, Costa Rica, and Mexico, Katie’s list of places to visit is still long.
What inspired you to join TEA? Where to begin… I have never been to a school where students are so engaged in their learning. TEA’s focus on having even our youngest students solve real-world problems is inspiring and makes me proud to be a part of the “TEA Magic”.
Where did you go to school? SUNY Plattsburgh, BA English Literature, Cal State East Bay Teacher Credentialing Program, UCSD Reading and Literacy Program
What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? I get more joy out of reading children’s literature than adult literature.
Amy Richards | Elementary School Student Support Services
Amy began her teaching career as an outdoor educator and naturalist for the YMCA on Orcas Island, WA and subsequently the Marin Headlands in the Bay Area. Witnessing the power of experiential learning through the lens of marine and coastal ecology and the character development of the students through low and high rope courses, Amy moved to Tahoe to pursue an Elementary Education credential from Sierra Nevada College. For five years, she taught 4th grade, primarily with low income and linguistically diverse learners in Reno and Sparks.
Realizing the unique educational challenges facing her students, she spent a year earning her Guided Language Acquisition and Design certificate, which integrates the core content areas of literacy, science and social studies to enhance language acquisition and literacy. She continued to incorporate best practices in curriculum development, teaching methods and language acquisition through a professional development course hosted by the Department of Education. After combining meaningful content with explicit literacy instruction, Amy continued her literacy training with the National Writing Project, becoming a consultant for the Northern Nevada Writing Project. In this role, she presented and crafted model lessons regarding the 6 writing traits for teachers to utilize in their own classrooms.
Amy holds two Bachelor of Arts degrees from UC Santa Cruz: Environmental Education and Latin American and Latino Studies. In addition, Amy is trained as a Student Learning Facilitator, improving student achievement through the use of research based engagement strategies, assessment practices and differentiated instruction.
What inspired you to join TEA? Watching all students engage with their world in a true, meaningful way
Where did you go to school? UC Santa Cruz Environmental Studies (BA) and Latin American and Latino Studies (BA). UNR (MS) Equity and Diversity in Educational Settings
Do you have any special certifications? National Writing Project, G.L.A.D. (Guided Language Acquisition and Design), Student Learning Facilitator
What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? I always lose at mini golf. I am the worst skier in my family but the best snowboarder.
Melanie Cooke | Elementary Program Director
Matt’s passion for teaching came from his time as a snowboard 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.