Our approach is centered around three guiding principles academics, character, and adventure.
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
Sample Kindergarten - 6th Grade Schedule
Tahoe WILDfire Video
More Than Just a School
Each student participates in art, music, and physical education each week as enrichment subjects, with significant time dedicated to these subject areas. When possible, these subject areas align with Learning Expedition topics and add depth to fieldwork, case studies, and service. We offer an after-school Spanish club for lower school students who are interested in gaining exposure to the Spanish language. This additional service is offered for a nominal fee.
Our students spend significant time learning reading, writing, and math. We address the same Common Core Language Arts and Math standards, Next Generation Science standards and National Council for Social Science standards that other schools address.
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 four years, Rosie’s teaching has been focused on nature and science exploration, language acquisition, phonics, writing, and math skills for Kindergarten. 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 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.
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. She enjoys helping students reflectively take ownership in their own learning and encouraging children to be adventurous innovators.
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.
Katie Bloom | 2nd Grade Crew Leader
Katie has been teaching since 2005. Her experiences includes teaching kindergarten and first grade students at Custom Learning Academy, middle school English Language Learners and kindergarten in Reno and Creative Writing and Art at Mammoth Elementary School. Through her experiences teaching, she has developed engaging and rigorous curriculum. Katie strives to create a well managed, inspiring and engaging learning environment that fosters the growth of students academically, socially and emotionally. Katie scaffolds and differentiates instruction and employs a range of effective, active pedagogy to address various learning styles. Cooperation, responsibility, accountability and respect are modeled and her students are taught the tools needed to solve their problems and become self motivated learners. She uses positive reinforcement to encourage desired behaviors and actively communicates with parents.
Outside the classroom, Katie enjoys skiing, hiking, cooking, dancing, reading and spending time with friends and family. Originally from Buffalo, NY, 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. Katie lived in Mammoth Lakes for seven years, where her experiences as a recreation guide and ski instructor led her into the classroom. Having travelled to Canada, Peru, Costa Rica, and Mexico, Katie’s list of places to visit is still long. She has been happy to call Truckee home since 2009.
Stephanie Gibbons | 3rd Grade Crew Leader
Stephanie has been in the field of education for over twenty years. Her extensive experience in the classroom coupled with her love of the outdoors makes her integral to our Expeditionary Learning faculty. A graduate of Salem State University, Stephanie has a Bachelors of Science degree in Early Childhood Education and is a certified teacher. She has rich knowledge, experience and training in Columbia Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, Fountas and Pinnell’s literacy instruction, Responsive Classroom approach, Expeditionary Learning curriculum, and Wilderness First Responder certification.
Stephanie’s vision of an effective classroom is based on a foundation of setting rigorous academic standards, thoughtful assessments, and responsive social-emotional instruction. She combines collaborative, authentic learning and individualized instruction to help each student reach his or her full academic and personal potential. In her free time, she takes full advantage of all that Tahoe has to offer, and may be found devouring a book on the lake, skiing with her children and husband at Alpine Meadows, backpacking through the Sierras, or heading into downward dog.
Loren Trux | 4th Grade 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.
Matt Morrison | 5th Grade Crew Leader
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 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 yacht industry for the next 6 years, which led him all throughout the islands and cultures of the South Pacific and on 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. During his years teaching 4th/5th grade classes at Leamington School, Matt saw the importance and power of education outside of the classroom.
Matt settled back in the U.S. in 2012, where he joined the Crew at TEA and began his journey into Expeditionary Learning. He is extremely excited to continue to develop this style of teaching at TEA and believes that TEA’s adventure component is crucial in getting kids to reach their true potential, both academically and socially.
Matt’s interests outside the classroom include snowboarding, hiking, running, and spending time with his wife and 3 children. 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.
Mike Wyreman | 6th Grade Crew Leader
Mike is excited to become a part of TEA. He is a California native, spending the majority of his first eighteen years in Menlo Park, spending as much time as he could on the baseball field and skiing in Tahoe. At UC Davis he studied graphic design and managerial economics while racing on the alpine ski team. Upon graduation, he moved to Truckee to enjoy the year-round outdoor recreational opportunities. Mike is an avid mountain biker and has coached ski racing for the Sugar Bowl Ski Team fifteen seasons. Discovering a passion for teaching, Mike obtained his K-8 teaching credential from Sierra Nevada College. Mike later taught for eight years at Custom Learning Academy. He has experience teaching grades three through six and middle school science. He has also extensively tutored middle school math, high school biology, and geometry. Mike loves to see students rise to a challenge in the classroom, on the slopes, and on the single track.
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.
Emily Tessmer | PreK – 6th Grade Music Teacher
Emily Tessmer, Director of the Music Program at TEA has been on staff since 2011. Certified in Orff Schulwerk and Responsive Classroom, she is always exploring new avenues of music education in conjunction with new ways to deepen the spirits of children through their own personal connection to the music. Emily is an International Recording Artist signed to Paradise Music based in the UK. She has completed production on seven full length CD’s from various genres including her latest, ‘World Chanting’, which features melodic masterpieces from New Zealand, Japan, and various Native American Tribes, among others. Emily’s primary instruments are voice and piano; however, she also teaches percussion, recorder, xylophones, beginning guitar and ukulele. Her continued passion for music and performing has led her to most her cherished mission of working with children.
Colleen Carr | Teacher Support
Colleen has been teaching for more than fifteen 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.
Amy Richards | Support Teacher 4th – 6th Grades
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.
LEARNING EXPEDITIONS DRIVE OUR CURRICULUM
We partner with EL Education, which now includes 170 schools and nearly 50,000 students nationwide, to collaborate with a professional network of schools and educators and to validate our program. EL Education is a proven model for educational reform that has gained national recognition. Learning expeditions are the core component of our academic program. Expeditions make content come alive for students, with kick-off and culminating experiences, compelling topics, guiding questions, learning targets (based on state and national standards), hands-on fieldwork, experts, local case studies, service learning and authentic products. Tahoe WILDfire is an example of a Lower School Learning Expedition at TEA. During this semester long learning expedition, students explore the topic of wildfires in the Tahoe Basin and across California. Students complete case studies and trace the evolution and occurrence of wildfire in California and investigate current and future wildfire management practices in the Tahoe Basin first hand. Students are then tasked with finding ways to support and encourage residents to practice wildfire prevention protocols.