The IDEA School employs life-long learners who are committed to our philosophy, engaged in the practice of inquiry and bring a special combination of experience, skills, talents, and passion to the table for the benefit of our students and their families. If you feel that you would be a great fit for our school, or wish to volunteer, let us know.
David Higuera, Co-Director, Admin and Development
David is a co-founder of IDEA School and serves as Co-Director, primarily responsible for administration, outreach, and development. David began his career in youth development, public education reform and teaching, spent some time in communications, politics, and government, and has come full circle back to education. As a former public school teacher in San Francisco, David appreciates all the potential that public schools hold but also saw firsthand how the rigid, top-down framework in which public school teachers and principals must operate was failing too many students.
David is dedicated to making children’s lives better, believes fiercely in the potential that IDEA School represents, and will gladly work day and night to ensure the school’s success.
David is married to Jesse Evans-Schroeder, a local immigration attorney, and they are the proud parents of 10-year-old IDEA School student Elliot, and his younger brother, Samuel.
Jaime Johnson, Co-Director, Curriculum and Instruction
Jaime is a co-founder of IDEA School and serves as Co-Director, in charge of the pedagogical vision and its implementation. She began her career teaching first grade and kindergarten in Tucson Unified School District where she met the challenges of overflowing classrooms, narrow state standards, and report cards. At TUSD she had an epiphany: To realize their full potential, children must be intrinsically motivated; but to preserve intrinsic motivation, education must be child-led and play-based. Informed and inspired, Jaime moved on to a private preschool, Second Street Children’s School, teaching two-, three-, and four-year-olds. This work, coinciding with the powerful experience of becoming a mother, gave her new insights into how children learn through active, purposeful play.
In 2011, Jaime co-founded Downtown Community School as a child-led, play-based preschool in Barrio Viejo. Her vision there was to support students in their discovery as they grow through the years. It is at Downtown Community School that the seeds of the IDEA School were planted.
Jaime leads her students in explorations of literature, language arts, and history, with an eye toward helping them build their empathy as well as their literacy and critical thinking skills. Jaime’s calling is to engage her students deeply and productively within a safe environment in which they can take healthy risks and be themselves. Jaime provides professional development support to all our collaborators and also works with students needing extra support.
Jaime’s daughter, Tula, attends IDEA School.
Jayme Berge, School Administrator
Bio coming soon.
Nicolle Bornstein, Associate School Administrator
Bio coming soon.
Jean Schroeder, Board President and Instructional Coach (volunteer)
Originally from Pennsylvania, Jean came to Tucson to attend college in 1970 and fell in love with the desert. She has earned three degrees from the University of Arizona: a Bachelors in Education, a Masters in Counseling and Guidance, and a Ph.D. in Language, Reading, and Culture.
Jean worked in Tucson Unified School District for more than 40 years teaching and coaching in elementary schools.
Jean has co-edited a premier educational journal, Language Arts. Professional books include co-authoring Learning Together Through Inquiry: From Columbus to Integrated Curriculum as well as co-editing Teaching Globally: Reading the World Through Literature. Jean has served on and chaired the Committee for Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts. She is on the Board for Worlds of Words at the University of Arizona, the largest collection of International Children’s Literature in the United States, and she is a co-chair of the Children’s and Teen’s Authors committee for the annual Tucson Festival of Books.
Jean is a founding Board member of the IDEA School and began her term as Board President in the summer of 2017. She lives on a little spot of desert with the birds, coyotes, and javelina as well as her four dogs, three cats, and three horses.
Liz Prohaska, Science, Collaborator Coach
Liz has been teaching inquiry-based, hands-on science for the past 48 years. She grew up in central California and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Art from Cal-State Long Beach along with her teaching certificate. She earned a Masters in Experiential Education from Vermont College.
Liz joined the IDEA School staff two years ago. In addition to providing our students with hands-on engaging science experiences of all kinds, Liz provides leadership and guidance for staff on curriculum development and assessment. Liz also serves as a staff liaison to the IDEA School Board of Directors. Prior to joining IDEA, Liz worked for Flowing Wells School District running their elementary school gifted education program. She developed the program into an inquiry-based science program. Before that Liz spent 12 years teaching science at Kino Learning Center, a private, progressive school here in Tucson. Before Kino, she ran her own private, progressive schools in California and in Tucson.
While teaching at IDEA, Liz also continues to provide professional development for science teachers countywide through the STEMAZing project!
Liz’s two sons, Aaron and Neill, were raised in progressive schools. Aaron is a self-taught software engineer working for Wells Fargo; Neill is working on his Ph.D. in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona. He is studying the effects of climate change on the rainforest. Liz lives with her husband Jack and their five cats in their homemade adobe house in the Tucson Mountains.
Martha Martin, Math Collaborator
Martha is over the moon excited to join the Idea School to coach and collaborate. She has taught children of all ages of inquiry-based math for 28 years with a focus on empowering the learner to have positive feelings and confidence in mathematics through hands-on activities. As a teacher, her passion is to defuse math anxiety by making it a relatable and creative experience.
Martha has facilitated math instruction with students from Pre-K to High School at Kino Learning Center from 1990 to 2018 with the exception of the time off she took to raise her twins.
Born and raised in Raleigh North Carolina, Martha moved to Tucson in 1980 where she met her second family who taught her all about beads, gems, and herbs.
Martha is a University of Arizona Alumni twice, receiving her B.A. in Elementary Education with a minor in mathematics in 1989 and her M.A. in Teacher Education Secondary Mathematics with Geometry Focus in 1997.
In addition to Mathematics, Martha has a passion for all art forms. She has been a bead artist for more than 35 years. She creates mandalas, handmade clay tiles, and dabbles in watercolor. Her other interests are Crossfit, rowing, hiking, and dancing
Martha’s 3 children were raised primarily in progressive schools. Her oldest daughter, Gakenia, is a professional dancer in Los Angeles currently on tour with Britney Spears. Her son, Emerson, is pursuing a degree in Biology at the University of Arizona and her daughter, Lela, is pursuing a Fine Arts degree also at the UofA. Martha lives with her daughter Lela and their sweet bulldog Penny in a house they have remodeled.
Debbie Towle, School Counselor, Collaborator Coach
Debbie has had the pleasure and great honor of working in the field of education for more than 30 years. This includes teaching grades K-4, counseling grades K-12, and mentoring new teachers. She has always believed in the “whole child” approach to education which incorporates social and emotional development within the learning climate. She believes in providing opportunities for children to develop qualities such as initiative, integrity, imagination, self-knowledge, and interpersonal skills.
While Debbie took a detour from education to explore the business of overseas travel and whitewater rafting, she ultimately found herself being drawn back to the children, back to teaching. As a result, she returned to school to earn her Master’s in Education and Counseling. Aside from raising and enjoying time with her daughter Liana, now 19, and her husband Steve (both of whom she loves dearly), working with children is where she finds her greatest sense of joy, meaning, and purpose.
After retiring from full-time classroom teaching after the 2017-18 school year, Debbie continues on as our School Counselor. She is thrilled to be a part of the IDEA school where students thrive in a community-based environment in which they can expand their creativity, think deeply about topics of interest to them, and be acknowledged for their contributions. More importantly, it allows Debbie to be part of a system where children and staff are highly valued and cared about deeply.
Dalziel Dominguez, Upper Elementary
Dalziel is Southwest native originally from Yuma, Arizona. He came to Tucson in 2006 and was captivated by the rich Sonoran Desert that thrives in this region. He attended the University of Arizona where he graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in biology with a minor in chemistry.
For the past five years, he has worked as a tutor both in private and public school settings, working with a broad age range and facilitating learning mostly around mathematics.
One of the larger endeavors of his life has been in working with local and naturalized plants of the Southwest. In 2010 he completed the Sonoran Herbalist Apprenticeship program which centered on learning how to work with local plants as medicine and food. He also worked as a gardener at the Tucson Botanical Gardens for a couple years and lived on a local CSA farm learning organic and sustainable farming practices.
Ernesto Olguin, Lower Elementary
Ernesto Olguin was born in Mexico City and came to the United States as a toddler. He has been in Arizona since the mid-90s, long enough to be considered an Arizona native. In 1999, he obtained his US citizenship.
Attending several universities/colleges, he studied architectural woodworking, industrial design, wood/metals fine art, as well as a multitude of random classes that fed his curiosity. Professionally, Ernesto found he was drawn to and good at physical, technical, and mechanical work including infrastructure rehabilitation and manhole and water line resurfacing. Most recently, he was a vehicle tear-down technician at a VW test facility.
On October 27, 2014, Ernesto was riding his bicycle home from work and was hit from behind by a car. The resulting injuries and recovery caused him to rethink his career path.
At about the same time Ernesto A. Olguin, aka Bubba, his son, was “done” with public school. The traditional education system wasn’t working for Bubba. In their exploration of alternative schooling options, Ernesto and his wife found the IDEA School. The Olguin family loves the IDEA School and the community/family they now belong to.
Ernesto is now a Collaborator at the IDEA School, focused on woodworking, design, design thinking, and most importantly fostering curiosity and exploration. In his free time, he enjoys dismantling everything, riding his road bike, reading, crafting wooden creations, and always learning more.
Amanda Reed, Upper Elementary
Originally from Florida, Amanda earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art from Florida State University and spent the first part of her career working at New York City Ballet and for contemporary art galleries in NYC and Melbourne, Australia, before moving to Arizona. While in Tucson, she earned a Masters in Elementary Education from N.A.U., worked at Tucson Museum of Art, and taught second grade in Tucson Unified School District. In recent years, she has taught visual art at the Tucson Museum of Art summer camp and was the Artist in Residence at Continental School District in Green Valley.
Working in a range of mediums from charcoal to watercolor to mixed media and found materials, her current work is inspired by the biological diversity of the Sonoran Desert. She has exhibited in the Arizona Biennial, at the Tucson Jewish Community Center, the Deitch Projects Art Parade, and others, and is held in private collections. Currently, she aims to create every day and is a proud mother to her 3-year-old son.
Laura Wilson Etter, Lower Elementary
Katie Kurtin, Early Childhood
Michelle Martin, Early Childhood
Michelle considers herself a mermaid in the desert. Although an Arizona native, for 3 years she lived on a small island in Florida where she swam in the ocean and danced on the sand. Michelle recently relocated home, though she plans to travel often. She has explored Mexico, Canada, Australia, India, Iceland and Ireland.
Michelle is a lover of movement and is certified in Yoga, Pilates, and Zumba. Her 5 seconds of fame was being interviewed by the news after dancing in a Flash Mob and photographed doing Authentic Movement by NPR. She explores writing, reading, and researching. She contributed to a chapter in her professor’s book Memory’s Stories: Interdisciplinary Readings of Multicultural Life Narratives and recently faced her fear by reading her poem aloud to a crowd of strangers. She enjoys the simple things like the bold colors of a sunset, when a student falls into deep concentration, and running through sprinklers.
Michelle has a B.A. in Psychology, B.A. in Integrative Studies and an M.A. in Library Science and Information Resources. In a former life, she was a Law Librarian and Young Adult Services Librarian. She still loves books and hopes her students will self-publish and illustrate their own. She has several years teaching different ages of kiddos at Montessori schools in AZ and FL, has worked with at-risk youth in behavioral services, and tutored in various subjects. She is very excited and grateful to work at IDEA School and connect with the community.
Sara Johnson, Exceptional Education Specialist (volunteer)
Bio coming soon.