Teachers And Staff

MAGIC IS IN THESE HANDS

Lower School Teaching Staff

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.

Our Lower School starts with Pre-Kindergarten and goes through 6th-Grade. In addition to “crew-specific” teachers, we have a dedicated music, art and student support staff for our Lower School students.

Anne Chippendale
Anne Chippendale
Stephanie Brodi
Rosie Striffler
Brenda Gants
Katie Bloom
Ryan Glenn
Loren Trux
Matt Morrison
Mike Wyreman
Joe Taylor
Emily Tessmer
Amy Richards
Colleen Carr

Anne Chippendale

Stephanie Brodi

Rosie Striffler

Brenda Gants

Katie Bloom

Ryan Glenn

Loren Trux

Matt Morrison

Mike Wyreman

Joe Taylor

Emily Tessmer

Amy Richards

Colleen Carr

Anne Chippendale | Pre Kindergarten Director

Anne Chippendale has been a teacher and coach in the Lake Tahoe area for almost 30 years. Anne earned her Teaching Credential from University of Nevada, Reno while coaching the Squaw Valley Ski Team and facilitating swimming lessons at the Truckee Pool. Soon after, she began teaching at the State Preschool in Kings Beach, where she developed a fun and creative multicultural program for her students and families. Prior to Tahoe Expedition, she spent four years at Creekside Cooperative Charter School.

Outside the school environment, Ms. Annie loves traveling and seeing the world beyond our immediate reach. She volunteered and cheered for our local athletes at the last two Olympics (Italy 2006, Vancouver 2010), has skied in Argentina and enjoys biking and hiking in our backyard, on the Tahoe Rim Trail.

Ms. Annie, as she is affectionately called by all who love and appreciate her, wholeheartedly believes that education is much more than classroom academics. She encourages the opening of doors to explore our environment, other people and cultures. With a positive outlook on life, she believes a well-balanced person will thrive, and in turn, benefit those around them as well as the future of our world.

Before moving to the area, she spent her childhood in Palo Alto and earned a Degree in Human Development from U.C. Davis.

Stephanie Brodi | Pre Kindergarten Teacher

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.

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.

Ryan Glenn | 3rd Grade Crew Leader

Ryan is an advocate for students and a beloved teacher who is eager to teach in the Expeditionary Learning style. Ryan has worked extensively with the Kings Beach Boys and Girls Club in the past running academic and technology programs as well as summer camps. He has been recognized by TTUSD and the national Boys an Girls Club organization for his contributions. Ryan received his undergraduate degree at Lees-McRae College and his Masters in Teaching from Sierra Nevada College. Ryan is an active member of our community with extensive volunteer work at the Boys & Girls Club of NLT, Tahoe SAFE Alliance, and Space Science for Schools.

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 | 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 aesthetics.

Emily Tessmer | 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.

Amy Richards | SUPPORT SERVICES TEACHER

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.

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.

Middle and High School Teaching Staff

Molly Fernholz
Molly Fernholz
Beth Valarino
Mara Jenkins
Nilo Bill
Jess Svoboda
Laura Quarin
Mark Henasey
Charlotte Semmes
Michelle Moran

Molly Fernholz

Beth Valarino

Mara Jenkins

Nilo Bill

Jess Svoboda

Laura Quarin

Mark Henasey

Charlotte Semmes

Michelle Moran

Molly Fernholz | 7th / 8th Grade Math and Science Teacher

Molly grew up in rural Minnesota and graduated with a degree in Education from The College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, MN. It was in college that her love for the outdoors began. She worked many summers teaching kids to rock climb and kayak along the north shore of Lake Superior. After college, Molly moved to San Francisco and began her teaching career. She taught at 3 different schools in San Francisco, mainly focusing on Math and Science. Molly also worked as a naturalist for an outdoor education company in California.

Two years ago Molly moved to Quetzaltenango, Guatemala to teach 5th grade. It has been a challenging but rewarding two years, and she grew as a teacher and a person because of the experience. She also started mountain biking. Molly enjoys cycling, hiking/backpacking, and running ½ marathons. She also enjoy a good cup of coffee and a good book.

Beth Valarino | 7th / 8th Grade ELA and Humanities Teacher

Beth was born and raised in Honolulu and has spent the majority of her adult life living and teaching outside of the United States. She lived in Panama City, Panama for nearly six years, where she taught 6th grade at an American school there. Beth then spent four years teaching 7th through 9th grade at an international school in Egypt, and has most recently spent time teaching 7th and 8th grade at an independent school in Seattle.

Throughout her career, Beth has been lucky to have been able to provide outdoor opportunities for students. In Cairo, she facilitated an outdoor education program which allowed for students to participate in desert sandboarding trips, windsurfing trips to the Red Sea, horseback riding excursions to the pyramids, and trips into lesser known Oases outside of Cairo’s city sprawl.

Some of Beth’s personal interests include surfing, stand up paddling, cycling, hiking, running, snowboarding, traveling, and spending time with her dog. She’s made it to the summit of Africa’s three highest mountains. Beth is an avid reader and writer.

Mara Jenkins | Dean of Students History Teacher, 11/12 Crew Leader

Mara Jenkins 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 where her husband grew up and enrolled at Sierra Nevada College to continue her education. Mara earned her teaching credential in secondary social studies as well as a Master of Art in Teaching from Sierra Nevada College. 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 including at a middle school in Eugene, Oregon for at-risk students, teaching a Women’s and Gender Studies introductory course at the University of Oregon, interning at Incline High School, and volunteering for the nationally ranked We The People program at Incline High School.

Nilo Bill | High School Math and Science

Having received his PhD 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 Alaska to Labrador and most notably, extensive time in Antarctica. Recently, being named a National Geographic Explorer allowed for him to work on solutions to problems associated with the decline of the Earth’s ice sheets in the country of Iceland. 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.

Jess Svoboda | High School Math and Science

Jess Svoboda is a local teacher who came highly recommended by the staff and administration at Sierra Expeditionary Learning School. Jess’ formal training is in science education and she has credentials to teach all four of the sciences, with her specialty being microbiology. She has experience teaching advanced levels of HS science and working with kids in outdoor settings.

Laura Quarin | ELA/Humanities

Though originally from Canada, Laura’s love of exploration and travel have taken her all over the world. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology, a Graduate Diploma in Education and a Master’s Degree in Athletic Administration, 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 countries and most recently worked as the humanities specialist and principal at a small school outside of Vancouver, British Columbia. Her experience in Canada allowed her to contribute to a unique school environment. She specialized in tailoring academic programs to fit students’ individual academic and personal needs. There, Laura developed and implemented strategies to allow curriculum, content and learning to be accessible to students of all backgrounds. Laura enjoys working with youth and inspires them to grow towards their unique potential. She is a lifelong learner who follows her curiosity into historical non-fiction, through travel to new places and in a wide variety of life experiences. Laura is thrilled to continue living out her passion for actively exploring the outdoors in the beautiful Tahoe area. She is particularly excited about the opportunity to work closely with students in supporting their personal and academic growth, as part of the inspiring TEA community.

Mark Henasey | 7th to 12th-grade Music Teacher

Mark graduated with a Music Education degree from University of Massachusetts Amherst. He enjoys performing music and teaching students of all ages. His teaching methods are diverse and oriented towards each student’s specific musical personality. He spent nine years as a Faculty Instructor for the Summer Institute for the Gifted teaching music courses at Princeton University, UCLA, Drew University and Bryn Mawr College. He also worked as a high school music director for a private boarding school for seven years. His original compositions have been featured on University of Princeton radio (WPRB 103.3) and his projects have opened for many international touring acts including Ween, The Wailers, Bernie Worrell (P-Funk and Talking Heads) and Vernon Reed (Living Color).

Charlotte Semmes | 7th to 12th-grade Art Teacher

Charlotte was born and raised in Maryland, outside of Washington D.C. She studied Fine Arts and Anthropology at Skidmore College in upstate New York. Directly following her graduation in 2004, she took a cross-country road trip with her best friend, eventually landing in San Francisco. There she pursued her longtime passion of working in textile and apparel industries while intermittently traveling and volunteering with youth in the visual arts. In 2011, Charlotte received a teaching fellowship in a newly evolved Design research program at UC Davis where she completed her MFA in Textiles. Realizing the joy she found working one-on-one with students, she acquired her California teaching credential in Art. She trained at a Waldorf-inspired high school in Sacramento and taught for one year in the Central Valley before joining her husband in Truckee.

Michelle Moran | 7th to 12th-grade Spanish Teacher

A graduate of UC Davis (BA) with a Major in International Relations and Minors in Spanish and Anthropology and a MA in Cultural Anthropology from the Universidad de las Américas, Puebla, Mexico, Michelle has been a bilingual teacher for over 25 years. Michelle has studied, worked and lived all of her adult life in or around the Spanish language. Michelle’s teaching background includes pre K through college formal classroom instruction though she has also directed her own private language school “Learn Spanish Now!” while teaching students of all ages throughout the greater Northern California, Nevada County and the Tahoe regions for the past 17 years after she returned to Northern California, from Mexico in 1996 to marry her true love and start a family. Michelle’s passion for all things Spanish and the art of teaching allows her to constantly implement her dream of connecting people in the world while helping them realize their goals, strengths and passions through learning and language every day. She currently also lives her family dream in Tahoe with her husband Mark and their three boys, Clay, Jason and Carter.

All School Staff

Caroline Kaplan
Caroline Kaplan
Nate Martz
Eric Martin
Jack Benter
Brian Collier
Melanie Cooke
Taylor Simmers

Caroline Kaplan

Nate Martz

Eric Martin

Jack Benter

Brian Collier

Melanie Cooke

Taylor Simmers

Caroline Kaplan | School Counselor

Caroline Kaplan is pleased to serve as a volunteer guidance counselor for Tahoe Expedition Academy. Since 2005 Caroline has been volunteering and interning as a counselor in various schools around the Lake Tahoe Basin. For the past three years, she has been supporting Incline High School’s counseling department by serving as their grief counselor and assisting with mentoring students on career/college planning.

Caroline graduated with a Master’s Degree in School Counseling and Educational Psychology from the University of Nevada, Reno. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Music Performance.

Caroline and her husband, Jim, have two daughters, Lily and Hattie. The couple moved to Lake Tahoe in 2003 and they are thrilled to be raising a family in an environment that encompasses both outdoor and indoor exploration and creativity. Fortunately, Tahoe Expedition Academy has come to fruition and we are grateful and proud to be a part of this wonderful community.

Nate Martz | Instructional Guide

A life-long love of learning has turned into a meaningful career as a math and science educator. Growing up in a small Connecticut town, Nate learned to appreciate the value of a good book and a curious mind. He initially studied aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan, working alongside future astronauts in a rigorous program of physics and higher level mathematics. After two years he decided to combine this love of engineering with his musical interests, leading him to change paths and earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Production and Engineering from Berklee College of Music. He spent several years working at colleges in the Boston area, teaching and training undergraduate students to produce stage events in technical theatre, dance, and concert music. It was during these experiences that Nate discovered his true passion for working with young people and helping them to implement practical applications of mathematics and scientific inquiry.

Nate further developed this work by becoming a high school teacher in New York City, where he taught math and science at an Expeditionary Learning school in the South Bronx. During this time he earned his Master’s Degree in Education from St. John’s University. He also coached the cross country and track and field teams, sharing his love for the science and art of distance running.

When he’s not the classroom, Nate spends his time training for marathons and triathlons. He has also been known to find mathematical patterns in his musings on the drums and guitar. He’s looking forward to working alongside +Impact students and staff to bring his passion and experiences to Tahoe.

Eric Martin | Director of Athletics and Activities

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 was recently inducted into the Salisbury University Athletics Hall of Fame.

This is his fourth year at TEA. 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. More immediately, sports promote healthy living habits, time management and goal setting skills critical to leading a balanced life. These skills and values learned in athletics have real world applications that can last a lifetime. Eric will draw from his extensive professional background to help students discover and pursue their athletic passion.

Jack Benter | Adventure Director

Jack’s career and personal life have been defined by adventure. His career in education began after graduating Magna Cum Laude with a B.A. in Education from the College of Charleston when he headed into outdoor and environmental education in 1999; he has instructed and guided groups throughout the western states ever since. Jack’s career thus far has included guiding three-week Outward Bound and NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) expeditions through the mountains, rivers, and cliffs of Oregon, Colorado, and Arizona. He has also developed and led more than 25 different programs as a Park Ranger in Yosemite’s high country, including 5-7 day High Sierra loop trips. For five years he worked for the Yosemite Institute (now Nature Bridge Yosemite), holding the positions of Field Educator, Summer Programs Coordinator, Backcountry Programs Director and Risk Manager. He also has coordinated and directed nature-based educational adventures in Washington, Oregon, Donner Summit, and throughout California.Jack’s passion lies in creating and developing transformational experiences for students. These programs look to challenge one’s inner and outer limitations, while building group cohesion, and creating synergy and lasting accomplishments. He has guided children of all ages to find a deep connection with the natural world, while using it as a launching pad to explore their goals and fulfill their vast potential.

Jack is thrilled to join TEA as its Adventure Coordinator and looks forward to the challenge of integrating the adventure and character development pillars into its academics. When not exploring the vast outer wilderness and mountainous regions spanning the globe from Patagonia to Nepal, Jack enjoys the inner landscapes of the psyche. He studies psychology, is a certified life coach, works locally as a Therapeutic Mentor, and incorporates yoga of mindfulness into his life.

Brian Collier | Facilities Manager

Brian has worked at Tahoe Expedition Academy for 5 years as the school’s Facilities Manager. Prior to his time at TEA Brian worked locally and abroad in an array of different industries. He enjoys motorsports, camping and watching, playing and coaching a variety of sports. He has a wife and two children.

Melanie Cooke | School Director

Academics, character and adventure define Melanie. Melanie graduated Summa Cum Laude from Humboldt State University in 1998. With the lifelong dream of becoming a teacher, she went straight into an internship and received her Multiple Subject Teaching Credential in addition to credentials in music, English, social studies and German in 1999. Melanie is especially passionate about teaching language arts and has received extensive training in both reading and writing instruction through the Columbia Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. She also serves the TEA community as the lower school Curriculum Director, working to support TEAchers in the areas of curriculum, instruction and assessment. Melanie also facilitates the relationship between TEA and Expeditionary Learning.

High expectations are the foundation of Melanie’s teaching style. She balances high expectations for student character and behavior with an imaginative and playful teaching style that encourages a life-long love of learning. Driven to learn, her students produce high quality, authentic products. Through collaborative, hands-on instruction, Melanie makes sure that every child understands the basics, and then encourages students to dig deeper and deeper into the subject. She believes that with support, there is no limit to what children can learn.

Melanie is a California native who found her passion for the outdoors during her summers in the Sierra. She has spent months at a time backpacking, climbing and paddling her way across the range. She has extensive backpacking experience including hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and the John Muir Trail. Through Girl Scouting, Melanie has guided high school aged girls on multiple, two week, 70+ mile trips. She also has a keen interest in wilderness survival, and has taken four classes from the world famous survivalist, Tom Brown Jr. She shares this interest with her husband, a California State Park Ranger.

Melanie spends as much of her free time as possible in the backcountry, accompanying her two daughters on backpacking adventures. She also enjoys playing and performing music. She is an avid singer and plays guitar as well. She can also be seen in local community theater performances. She is a certified Orff Schulwerk and Music Together music teacher. In addition to working with kids at school, Melanie volunteers with Girl Scouts as a leader and summer camp Program Director.

Melanie loves the adventure of teaching at TEA!

Taylor Simmers | Admissions Director, Co-Founder

Taylor is co-founder of Tahoe Expedition Academy and +Impact School. 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 Incline Village, Nevada with his wife and son, Sully.