Get Outside Your Comfort Zone
And Learn How to Thrive in the Most Uncomfortable Situations
Our approach is centered around three design principles – academics, character, and adventure. Engaging academics and real-world adventures empower students to reach their full potential by cultivating intellectual growth, character, and confidence. We focus on fun and engaging problem solving challenges that extend the definition of a classroom out to the real world. It’s much, much more than occasional field trips.. Our Middle School students spend 30+ days actively engaging with experts on incredible projects and adventures that challenge them in unexpected ways. Throughout these real-world adventures, we intentionally create and engage with adverse situations to grow our student’s comfort zones. We call it Constructive Adversity, and it’s what sets our school apart from others.
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. 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.
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.
Real-World Learning Drives Our Curriculum - "Be A Movement Maker" Example
Real-world learning is a core component of our academic program. Application of core 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.
Our Middle School “Be a Movement Maker” Real-World Project is about moving society, and in many ways, it’s as much about young people emerging into the world and finding their voices as it is about challenging retrogressive social norms. During the study, students engage in authentic fieldwork in the Bay Area, conducting climate change research, honing their craft, and studying the complex work of professional scientists, poets, and social justice advocates. Their final product, a Youth TEDx presentation focused on issues of climate change, integrate all of their learnings and then present them before a community audience. In this work, students use their knowledge to deliver a powerful oratorical piece that is as informed by the spirit of movement makers as it is by the indisputable facts of science.
Through the “Be a Movement Maker” Real World Project, Luke was inspired after learning more about climate change. When he found out the cost of the greenhouse was $5,000 he felt there had to be a better way. “And that’s why I invented the Hexadome. The Hexadome cuts down on global emissions from long distance food transportation that litters about 31 percent of our total carbon footprint production.”
What Sets TEA Apart
Every day begins with a crew meeting. This is a way to make every student 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.
We integrate real-world learning into a larger curriculum units. By traveling into the natural world as well as to regional, national and international communities and locales, students are able to extend and apply their learning in authentic ways and to engage in realistic, hands-on learning experiences. Equally important, our students are able to expand their scope of understanding about the world around them and truly develop and grow as global citizens by meeting with experts and professionals in the field. 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.
These are mixed age classes focusing on life skills such as photography, filmmaking, dancing, ceramics, and stewardship. Students choose their intensive in the beginning of each semester and enjoy mixing up the social dynamic through deep exploration of topics.
Meet Our Amazing Middle 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. In addition to “crew-specific” teachers, we have a dedicated team of humanities, math and science teachers.
Beth Vallarino | 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 | Middle and High School Math & Science 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.
Natalie Bladis | Middle and High School Math & Science Coach + Crew Leader
Natalie was born in Westchester, New York and grew up on Lake Rippowam in South Salem where her love of the outdoors began. In high school, she took a class called Wilderness which sparked her interest in entering the fields of outdoor and project-based education. She even wrote her college application essay about being a high school math teacher.
After high school, Natalie attended the State University of New York at Geneseo where she studied Mathematics and Secondary Education. The summer after her junior year of college, Natalie hiked the Pacific Crest Trail before teaching abroad in Ghana West Africa during her senior year.
After college, she moved to California to be closer to bigger mountains and teach at a project-based learning school called Da Vinci Charter Academy in Davis. At Da Vinci, Natalie taught Integrated Math 2, Algebra 2/Trigonometry, AP Statistics, and AP Calculus AB. Natalie also founded and coached the Ultimate Frisbee team.
Here in California, she has learned to rock climb and ski. In her spare time, Natalie enjoys yoga and creating ceramic art.
What inspired you to join the TEAm? The most inspiring aspect of TEA for me is the concept of constructive adversity. I seek out constructive adversity in my own life every day to become the best version of myself. One of my personal core values is to face my fears with perseverance and an indomitable spirit. To work at a school that shares this core value inspires me to push myself and help my students set goals that push them every day in the academic setting.
Where did you go to school? SUNY Geneseo, Mathematics and Secondary Education, Minor in Asian Studies (Visual Arts)
Do you have any special certifications? I’m a Yoga Teacher and Ceramic Artist
What’s something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? Even though at heart I am a mountain girl, I love creatures of the sea. I once carried 2 whale vertebrate (each about 3 feet in diameter) 10 miles on the lost coast trail for my collection of sea things by strapping them to my already full pack. I have since traded one of the vertebrae for a moose skull.
Nilo Bill | Middle and High School Math & Science Coach + Crew Leader
Having received his Ph.D. from Oregon State University in geology and climatology after receiving his undergraduate degree from University of Miami, earning a triple major in Geology, Anthropology, and International Studies, Nilo draws from a diverse array of academic disciplines. The pursuit of knowledge has brought Nilo to do fieldwork all over the world, from Antarctica to Alaska. Recently, being named a National Geographic Explorer allowed him to work on solutions to climate change problems in the country of Iceland. This early work of Nilo’s has culminated in several publications in scholarly journals including in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, as well as a coauthor on a high-school level textbook titled The Himalayas: An Encyclopedia of Geography, History, and Culture. If you walk into Nilo’s classroom you will likely find students engaged in hypothesis driven science or discussions surrounding scientific epistemology, or, how scientists know what they know. Nilo believes that an eye toward his students’ future is important while maintaining a healthy dose of fun and adrenaline along the way. To Nilo, no matter where he is in the field with his students there is an outdoor lesson in natural science waiting to be unleashed. The real world provides the most interesting and useful problems to solve, and that is where Nilo’s classes always begin. If he is not talking about science with his students, Nilo is likely comparing notes with students on ski conditions, best Tahoe ski runs and plans of attack for upcoming powder days.
What inspired you to join TEA? Creating students that are the best versions of themselves. Being able to not only teach students science and math in ways that excite me, but mentoring them into proto-adulthood.
Where did you go to school? Oregon State University, Ph.D., Geology
Do you have any special certifications? NOLS Wilderness First Responder
What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? I love bluegrass music and play guitar and banjo.
Michaela Fooksa | Middle and High School Math & Science Coach + Crew Leader
Michaela has been slowing making her way west her whole life. She was born in Boston and received her BA in Mathematics from Colgate University, where she led a math tutoring group at a local high school. She then moved to Nashville, Tennessee to work in a computational biology lab and receive her MS in Chemical and Physical Biology at Vanderbilt University. The next stop was Lake Tahoe, where she fell in love with the unending outdoor activities and the natural beauty and tranquility of the Sierras. Michaela has studied and done research in Math, Physics, Computer Science, Chemistry, and Biology, and she is excited to be able to share her interdisciplinary background as a math and physics teacher. In her free time, Michaela enjoys trail running, backpacking, skiing, swimming, yoga, reading, and country music.
What inspired you to join TEA? Learning through real-world experiences not only cements lessons in students’ minds, but it also allows freedom and creativity to connect classroom experiences to real-life problems. I am excited to help show all that nature has to teach us and to inspire people to connect with and protect the natural world.
Where did you go to school? Colgate University, BA in Mathematics, Vanderbilt University, MS in Chemical and Physical Biology with a concentration in Molecular Biophysics
Do you have any special certifications? Member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, fluent in Czech
What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? I spent six months studying intensive statistical theory in Cape Town, South Africa, where I also took a course in African drumming and competed on the university’s swim team.
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.
Joe Taylor | Middle and High School Real-world Intensive Coach
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 aesthetics.
Katy Kimple | Middle and High School Student Success Specialist
Katy graduated from SUNY Cortland in 2011 with a degree in Therapeutic Recreation became a nationally certified Recreational Specialist in 2012. Katy spent her first three years out of college working as a wilderness therapy instructor and found Lake Tahoe along the way. After moving to Tahoe, Katy has worked in many positions assisting people of all abilities and disabilities. She started a community integration program for adults with developmental disabilities in Truckee and South Lake Tahoe and then transitioned into working for Achieve Tahoe. Katy found her passion for teaching while working at Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village. Katy worked for three years as an Outdoor Adventure Leadership professor. Finding that taking students into the wilderness and out of their comfort zone was still a passion of hers. Most recently, Katy utilized her background in disabilities while working at Sierra Mental Wellness Group in social work.
What inspired you to join the TEAm? I believe that every child should have the opportunity to learn and grow in the outdoors and TEA does exactly that, creates growth through adversity.
Where did you go to school? State University of New York at Cortland, Therapeutic Recreation, BS in Science
Do you have any special certifications?Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, WFR, ASIST, and Know the Signs trainer
What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should?Backpacking is my jam…I’ve through hikes the Camino de Santiago in Spain and about 3/4 of the way through the Appalachian Trail.
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.
Taylor Simmers | Co-Director + Co-Founder + Middle School Humanities Teacher
Taylor is co-founder of Tahoe Expedition Academy. Since 1995, Taylor has worked with students in K through 12th grade in a variety of locations and types of schools across the country. He has taught, coached, designed curriculum, led outdoor education programs and served as a school administrator. Since 2004, Taylor has lived and taught in Lake Tahoe and developed an appreciation for and an understanding of the developmental needs of students in their formative years.
Taylor has a B.A. in English from Princeton and a Masters in Education from Brown University. As an educator, Taylor believes authentic products, meaningful academics, and outdoor experiences create long lasting knowledge and important skills for children. To help start a school that combines these educational components has been a dream come true. For the past ten years, Taylor has guided adventure-based trips for students throughout the American West, where he currently enjoys backcountry skiing, mountain biking and climbing on his own time. Taylor lives in Tahoe with his wife and sons, Sully and Mickey, and dog, Olly.
What inspired you to join (or start) TEA? Our culture of iteration and ability to problem solve
Where did you go to school? Princeton University, BA English; Brown University, MAT Education
Do you have any special certifications? Wilderness First Responder, CA / NV Teaching Credential
What is something that not everyone knows about you, but probably should? My four front teeth are really white because they are really fake.
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.