Lower School Teaching Staff

Anne Chippendale

Pre Kindergarten Director 

annie.458x0-isAnne 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 Gibbons

Pre Kindergarten Crew Leader

stephanieStephanie has been in the field of education for over twenty years. Her extensive experience in the classroom coupled with her love of the outdoors make 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.

Rosie Striffler

Kindergarten Crew Leader

rosie.458x0-isRosie 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.

Shelby Johnson

1st Grade Crew Leader

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 10.28.18 PMShelby started teaching at TEA at the begining of the 2014-15 school year. First as a teacher aid to Melanie Cooke, as Melanie transitioned into Lower School Director, Shelby transitioned to the 1st grade co-Crew Leader. She graduated from Western Washington University’s Woodring College of Education, located Bellingham, WA, in 2014 with a K-8 teaching credential as well as a degree in science education with emphasis and passion poured into geology. Shelby began her teaching career very young when she was constantly the teacher’s helper in the child care center she attended for the first 10 years of her life. Once she turned 16 she returned to the same child care center as the assistant pre-school teacher. Shelby has also been a rock climbing instructor at a camp in Maine, a peer educator for Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Crew, a reproductive health educator for Planned Parenthood, and a toddler teacher for her college’s child development center. Shelby was always a teacher, and always knew she would teach in her own classroom someday. Shelby thrives in an environment where students are discovering subjects they’re excited about. She has found just that environment here at TEA where she can immerse her students in interesting topics by taking them into the field often. Shelby’s biggest goal is that every child she works with will develop a love for learning and can someday do a job they’re passionate about, while still being a kind, caring, and conscious member of society. She cannot wait to stoke the fires of many children as they make their way through her classroom.

When not in the classroom, Shelby can often be found at the beach, in the mountains, at a concert, or at home listening to records and doing art. She is truly passionate about nature, all of the arts, animals, and the wellness of those in her life. Shelby cannot wait to continue her journey of exploration and growth at TEA, and in the beautiful Lake Tahoe Basin.

Katie Bloom

2nd Grade Crew Leader

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 10.12.01 PMKatie 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.

Brenda Gants

3rd 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 5 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.

Loren Trux

4th Grade Crew Leader

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 10.06.11 PMLoren 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

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 9.58.41 PMMatt’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
318477_134111106694846_1170806834_nMike 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.

Dorota Lewandowski

Kindergarten  – 6th Grade PE Teacher

dorota head shotDorota Lewandowski recently transplanted to California from New York City, where she earned a double Bachelor of Science in Physical Education and Biology from St. Francis College and a Master of Science in Kinesiology from the City University of NY at Brooklyn College. Upon graduating, she gained valuable experience at Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY as a Pediatric Clinical Exercise Physiologist and Registered Sleep Specialist. This is her first year in California as a physical education instructor. Coming from a concrete jungle like New York, Dorota moved to Lake Tahoe to not only snowboard, but to explore all of the adventures the mountains and the lake have to offer!

Before being offered a swim scholarship at St. Francis College, Dorota swam on a top ranked United States Swimming team for 10 years. Along with swimming, Dorota played a number of various sports such as basketball, softball, handball, tennis, and track and field. In a technological world, Dorota finds it extremely important for children to be outside, enjoying the time they spend being active. Her style of teaching incorporates skills, drills, and games that include learning about anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology. Through her unique teaching, Dorota aims to develop the physical education program from simple games to a class where the students learn about the human body in a fun and interactive way.

Joe Taylor

PreK – 6th Grade Art Teacher

tea-teacher-art-joeA 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

tea-emily-teacher-bioEmily 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

Support Teacher Kindergarten – 3rd Grade

female-stockColleen 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

tea-teacher-support-amyAmy 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.

Dylan Fitzsimmons

Reading Specialist

dylanBorn in the Philippines to parents teaching abroad, Dylan spent much of his childhood traveling. His elementary school years were spent in Saudi Arabia attending international schools with students from all over the world. He has visited a variety of nations across Europe, Africa, and Asia, as well as explored the United States from coast to coast.Dylan graduated from Canisius College in Buffalo, NY in 2006 with Honors and a dual Bachelor’s in Childhood Education and Special Education. He holds a professional teaching certification in both disciplines and especially enjoys working in small groups or individually with students to reach their educational and personal goals. Dylan has worked in a wide variety of educational settings throughout the years, serving as an environmental educator on the Chesapeake Bay, in public schools, at the Boys and Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe, and most recently as the Prevention Education Coordinator for Tahoe SAFE Alliance. In 2010 he earned his Master’s in Ecological Teaching & Learning from Lesley University, and is excited to have the opportunity to put all of his skills and experience to work for Tahoe Expedition Academy.

In his spare time, Dylan enjoys snowboarding, mountain biking, camping, fishing, and playing guitar. He loves the mountains and the community of North Lake Tahoe, and couldn’t be happier to be a part of the TEA family!

Middle School Teaching Staff

Lorenzo Worster

7th / 8th Grade Crew Leader

lorenzo-bio-photoLorenzo places a high value on educating the whole child. He believes that instilling a passion for the outdoors can not only compliment academics, but enhance them. His life was forever changed when he attended the Colorado Rocky Mountain School for his last two years of high school. He experienced firsthand that when students are authentically inspired to become active participants in their learning, the content becomes meaningful and the lessons derived make a life long impact. It is now his mission to foster an environment where students thrive and the passion for learning becomes ever-present.

After receiving his undergraduate degree from University of Colorado in Environmental Studies and a minor in Scandinavian Studies, Lorenzo moved to Tahoe and fell in love with the world class skiing, climbing, biking, and kayaking that this area has to offer. Here he took his passion for telemark skiing to the next level. He went from instructing and guiding to competing and filming, eventually gaining international recognition.

When his focus shifted from pushing his skiing to building a career, teaching was the natural choice. He received his teaching credential and Masters in Education from Sierra Nevada College and never looked back. He has taught Pre K and Middle School at TEA and a 4th and 5th grade loop at Grass Valley Charter School. And now he, his wife Julia, 7 year old son Sage, and 2 year old daughter Aurora are thrilled to be moving back to their home in the mountains and to be a part of the communiTEA again.

Genevieve Coffey

7th / 8th Grade Crew Leader

genny-bio-teaGenevieve Coffey lives by the principal doctrine: “Boredom is not allowed.” She grew up in New England playing in the woods and traversing the Adirondack and Green Mountains of New York and Vermont. Over time, she stumbled upon the sublime realization that it is impossible to be bored when you have a book on hand. So she became a reader.

Genevieve took her love of language and of landscape to Middlebury College, where she studied English literature and developed a particular interest in nature writing. After graduating with high honors – determined to share and indulge her passion for reading and writing by becoming a teacher – she earned her Masters of Education degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder and promptly took herself to the mountains, where she taught ELA and Social Studies for twelve years while coaching the Junior Development Ski Team on Vail Mountain. Here, she also discovered Expeditionary Learning at Homestake Peak School and became a fervent believer in its principles of character, adventure, service, and stewardship. In support of these principles, Genevieve was intimately involved with youth outreach through the county’s lone bookstore, a place that was, in many ways, the heart of the community. For two years she promoted and participated in the short story writing contest for young people, an event that included creative workshops, visits from published authors, and a final, celebratory publication of student work entitled Ungoverned Children. In 2014, she wrote the book’s introduction, where she honored the young authors for having the courage to write and to share their voices with the world.

When she is not loitering at the library or crusading against the comma splice or demonstrating how to use persuasive techniques for good rather than evil, Genevieve prefers to road and mountain bike, skin up nearby peaks and telemark down them, and camp with her husband and two children.

Mark Henasey

7th / 8th Grade Music Teacher

impact teacher headshot mark henasayMark 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 / 8th Grade Art Teacher

unnamedCharlotte 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 / 8th Grade Spanish Teacher

michelleA 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

Tyra Frizelle

Office Manager

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 10.37.05 PMTyra is from Whitefish, Montana and went to school in Missoula, Montana where she studied Sociology with an emphasis in Criminal Justice. While in Montana, Tyra dedicated most of her free time to coaching youth cheer camps and volunteering for the violence-free crisis line of the Peace Project. In addition to her extremely rewarding volunteer work, Tyra gained business management experience as a “people manager” at Abercrombie & Fitch. Since moving to Tahoe, Tyra has been the assistant manager of the Spa at Martis Camp as well as assistant manager at Niche Boutique in Truckee.Tyra feels incredibly fortunate to continue her journey at TEA, where she is a part of something amazing and can make a contribution to its success. In her free time, Tyra can be found hanging with her five year old daughter, Rae, enjoying the water, refurbishing furniture, and enjoying the outdoors in any way possible, as well as volunteering for projects in our Tahoe community.

Caroline Kaplan

School Counselor

tea-staff-bio-carolineCaroline 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

Director of STEAM

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 10.29.15 PMA 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

ericEric 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 Coordinator

tea-staff-jack-bioJack’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

tea-staff-brianBrian 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.

Administrative Staff

Mark Kushner

Head of School

impact board headshot mark kushnerA San Francisco native, Kushner received a B.A. from Wesleyan University and completed graduate work in literature, law and educational administration at Oxford University, University of San Francisco (J.D.), and Harvard University (Ed.M.), and he is a graduate of Outward Bound. Kushner has taught a course on school innovation at Stanford University since 2006, and has served on numerous boards, including, San Francisco University High School, Town School for Boys, Leadership Public Schools and Flex Schools, among others.

Kushner’s distinguished background includes teaching at Stanford University, opening California’s first charter high school in 1995, opening one of the first school management organizations in 2001, and opening California’s first fully technology-blended middle and high school in 2008. Since 2008, Kushner has been deeply involved with leading the movement toward personalization, designed to meet students where they are and enable them to accelerate where appropriate.

Melanie Cooke

Lower School Director, Instructional Guide

melanieAcademics, 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!

Ryan Aldrich

Upper School Director

ryan-profileOver the past 15 years, Ryan has served in numerous administrative leadership positions at three different independent schools. At these schools, Ryan has worn many hats, which include serving as a teacher, college counselor, admissions officer, student judicial officer, residential life administrator, advisor, and coach. Born in Vermont, Ryan stayed in New England to attend Colby College where he majored in psychology and was an honorable mention All-American in football. After graduating, Ryan worked at The Kent School for several years before heading to the University of Denver to complete his masters degree in education. Falling in love with the West, Ryan stayed in Colorado and worked at Vail Mountain School, a K-12 independent day school. Most recently, Ryan worked at The White Mountain School, New Hampshire, directing their college counseling program and contributing to their leadership team. Drawing on his roles in admissions and counseling, Ryan is excited to contribute this important understanding of the external lens to the development of TEA’s programming. Ryan is excited about applying the experience he has had at multiple independent schools to developing the upper school at TEA. Throughout his educational career, a consistent theme has been Ryan’s passion for leading students on experiential learning trips. These have ranged from building schools in Nepal to avalanche education on backcountry hut trips. Ryan’s sense of adventure has led him to travel to 38 different countries.

Ryan’s wife Lizzie is also joining TEA as an upper school science teacher. They have two children, Avery (4) and Colden (2) and a golden retriever, Khumbu (4). Ryan is an avid telemark skier, mountain biker, and mountaineer — he is excited about the opportunity now that he lives in California to finish all of the 14,000 foot mountains in the continental United States.

Taylor Simmers

Admissions Director, Co-Founder

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 10.29.57 PMTaylor 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.