Elementary School

Do Good. Be Great.

Through Academic Inquiry, 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.

01

Academics

Our core subject areas include English Language Arts, Math, Science, 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.

02

Character

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.

03

Adventure

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.

Real World Adventure Example: Tahoe Wildfire

Our goal is to create learning multidisciplinary learning experiences that are “exhilarating and so amazing.” That’s an actual quote about a student’s experience during this Real World Adventure example titled “Tahoe WILDFire.” Through this experience students were able to apply concepts they learned in their core subject areas to fire prevention practices in the Tahoe Basin.

WHAT SETS OUR SCHOOL APART

01

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.

02

Real-World Learning

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.

03

Guilds

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.

Meet Our Amazing Elementary School Teachers

Stephanie Brodi
Stephanie Brodi
Rosie Striffler
Brenda Gants
Marisa Capellan-Steffke
Colleen Carr
Kate Anderson
Katie Bloom
Theresa Smith
Alex Peugnet
Kristen Giordano

Stephanie Brodi

Rosie Striffler

Brenda Gants

Marisa Capellan-Steffke

Colleen Carr

Kate Anderson

Katie Bloom

Theresa Smith

Alex Peugnet

Kristen Giordano

Stephanie Brodi | Pre-Kindergarten Director

Originally from Upstate New York, Stephanie moved to Truckee in 2012. Before joining Tahoe Expedition, she taught grades K-2 at Custom Learning Academy and most recently Year One in Auckland, New Zealand. Stephanie has a B.A. in Childhood Education and has both New York and California teaching credentials. Her mission is to create a learning environment that encourages students to take healthy risks so they are able to realize just how much they are capable of. Stephanie focuses on teaching the whole child in light of their individual and developmental needs so that they become life-long learners. Outside of the classroom Stephanie can be found outdoors taking in all that the Tahoe area has to offer. Snowboarding, mountain biking, and hiking are a few of her favorite activities. During the summer months, she coaches downhill mountain biking.

What inspired you to join TEA? Everything about TEA inspires me! From the knowledgeable staff right down to the kiddos. I am especially inspired by the love our students share for the outdoors.

Where did you go to school? SUNY Plattsburgh

What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? I am going to be an interpretive dancer in my next life.

Rosie Striffler | Kindergarten Coach & 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 11 years, Rosie’s teaching has been focused on early childhood education, nature, science, physics, and social/emotional exploration, language acquisition, the science of reading and writing, and math skills for Kindergarten. She was first exposed to education by her mother who is a 40-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, and focused her thesis on the theory of multiple intelligences. She is 8 + years WRF certified, has a Nevada Teaching Credential, she won Student Teacher of the Year 2009 at Sierra Nevada College, received her certified Waldorf Approach for Public Schools from Rudolf Steiner College in 2014, received a grant from Fund for Teachers in 2016 where she went to Peru to study frogs in the Amazon, won co-teacher of the year (with Miss Brenda) for Nessy a dyslexia advocacy and dyslexia software company in 2021, and is a guided meditation teacher. 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? Being able to use innovation to create curriculum with the guidance of students interests and the incredible amount of support and connection within the TEA community.

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 Coach & 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!).

Marisa Capellan-Steffke | 2nd-Grade Coach + 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 exploring our beautiful, natural world with her son, husband and pup!

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.

Colleen Carr | 3rd-5th-Grade Math and Science Coach + Crew Leader

Colleen has been teaching for more twenty 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 dogs Fletcher and Stella. She will most likely be found skiing with her friends and family, paddling on a lake, camping, 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, and received my teaching credential from Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village.

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.

Kate Anderson | 3rd-5th-Grade Math & Science Coach + Crew Leader

Kate has been educating students for 8 years in a variety of settings and states. After teaching science in a school garden while earning her Environmental Studies degree at UC Santa Cruz, Kate went on to be a naturalist in the Sierra Nevada and then the East Bay Area. Wanting to have more time with students than the weeklong camps and experience a different part of the US, Kate moved to Asheville, North Carolina. There she was an Instructional Aide in special education classes and explored the mountains, rivers, forests, and crags that Appalachia had to offer.

Kate returned to California to earn her MA in Education and Education Specialist credential from Cal Poly. She was lucky to become the Resource Specialist at the same school where she did her student teaching, and ran the Resource Program for 2 years. Loving her time at Baywood Elementary, Kate was still itching to get back into an area where she could easily get into the wilderness and integrate her background in natural history and environmental education in the classroom.

When she is not teaching, you can find Kate running on trails, exploring new wildernesses, racking her brain for the latin name of the plant in front of her, flipping over logs to see what is underneath, or curled up with a good book. In this next year she is excited to get better at skiing, grow roots in North Lake Tahoe, and be part of the communiTEA!

What inspired you to join TEA? I love the opportunity to use experiential learning to grow a sense of belonging to locality while at the same time empowering students to understand and take hold of their potentials. Using placed-based learning and a hands-on approach, TEA takes rigorous state standards and makes them applicable, so students are able to develop real-world problem-solving skills.

Where did you go to school? M.A. in Education, with a Special Education Specialization from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. B.A. in Environmental Studies with a Focus in Environmental Education and Minor in Anthropology from U.C. Santa Cruz

Do you have any special certifications? California Clear Education Specialist Credential, California Assistive Technology Assessment Certification

What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? I know a lot about birds, and I’ve handled a number of raptors through different jobs including Red-Tailed Hawks, a Harris’s Hawk, a Great Horned Owl, a Western Screech Owl, and a Golden Eagle.

Katie Bloom | 3rd-5th-Grade Humanities Coach + Crew Leader

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.

Theresa Smith | Music Teacher

Theresa was born and raised in Lake Tahoe, California. Growing up in the Sierras set the stage for her passion for playing in and exploring the outdoors. Theresa’s love for music came from her Her love for music experience as a student at North Tahoe High School. Her work as a teacher has challenged her to work will all populations of students and all ages. Theresa believes that music is for all and works to provide rich, engaging programs that are not only relative to her students, but motivating and exciting.

Theresa is lucky enough to work as a professional outdoor guide in the summer. She has worked as a kayak guide, hiking guide and river guide. Her favorite place to be when she is not in her classroom is rowing a raft down a river.

What inspired you to join TEA? TEA encourages humans to push the boundaries of what can be achieved in a school setting.

Where did you go to school? University of Houston, Masters in Music Performance emphasis: Bassoon; University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Bachelors in Music Education

What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? I have a side kick named Lucy who keeps my weekends super fun! She is a black lab.

Alex Peugnet | Athletics and Activities Manager + Guild Coach

Alex’s position at TEA as Athletics and Activities Manager combines her passion of working with kids, providing healthy activities, and exploring the outdoors. Alex graduated from Arizona State University in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science in Health Promotion. Alex’s career has included designing and executing after school programs for at-risk teens, farming, and working with teens as a guide in Wilderness Therapy. Alex started her work at TEA as an Adventure Guide in 2018 and is thrilled to now be a full-time member of the TEAm.

In her free time, Alex loves hiking, cooking, traveling, and trying new restaurants. Alex is excited to live in Tahoe and explore all the outdoor activities available here!

What inspired you to join TEA? I am inspired by how TEA encourages students to be curious, think outside the box, and hones in on the strengths of each student.

Where did you go to school? Arizona State University, Bachelor of Science in Health Promotion

Do you have any special certifications? Wilderness First Responder

What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? I am passionate about sustainable practices and decreasing food waste.

Kristen Giordano | School Counselor

Kristen is thrilled to be joining the TEA community as the Pk-12 school counselor. Starting her 16th year in education, Kristen has developed her skills as an educator at independent schools, holding different positions including math, science, and wellness teacher, Dean of Residential Life, and Dean of Student Life. Her focus is on the emotional wellness, safety, and growth of every individual in the TEA community. Her passions include guiding community growth and helping instill a sense of belonging and inclusivity.

Kristen hails from the west coast and was born and raised in California and Washington. She has been in the Truckee area since 2006. Despite pursuing a career in disease research after studying Microbiology at Washington State University, Kristen found her place and passion within independent schools. She is currently completing her M.Ed. in School Counseling at the University of Southern California. Outside of school, Kristen is mom to a TEA 2nd grader, a chihuahua, and a border collie. She is a proud member of the #BooCrew and loves to be out Nordic skiing in the winter.

What inspired you to join TEA? The focus on student wellness at TEA inspires me. Putting our social-emotional needs at the forefront of educational practice will help our students be healthier and happier humans as they navigate life.

Where did you go to school? Microbiology at Washington State University and am now in my last year of study to receive my M.Ed. in School Counseling at the University of Southern California

Do you have any special certifications? Specialist certifications from the American School Counseling Association including Mental Health, Anxiety & Stress Management, and Trauma & Crisis Specialist

What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? I love cooking, doing puzzles, and am obsessed with houseplants!