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 with our school, or wish to volunteer, let us know.
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, Lead Collaborator, Science
Liz has been teaching inquiry-based, hands-on science for the last 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 last year, teaching science a few days a week, and continues this year as our Lead Collaborator, providing leadership and guidance on curriculum development and assessment. Liz also serves as the 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 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.
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 rain forest. Liz lives with her husband Jack and their five cats in their homemade adobe house in the Tucson Mountains.
Debbie Towle, K-1 Collaborator, Instructional Coach and School Counselor
Debbie has had the pleasure and great honor of working in the field of education for more than 28 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 dimensions to 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 pursue her Master’s degree in Education and Counseling. Aside from raising and enjoying time with her daughter Liana, now 18, 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.
Debbie 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.
Susan Park, Math, Engineering and Design Collaborator
Susan Park has a BA in Psychology with minors in Physics and Mathematics. She has held several jobs over the years including assembly line worker, high school Math teacher, nanny to infant triplets, Army officer, and middle-school backpacking/canoeing trips leader, but her favorite (and longest-lasting) job has been with a company that makes interactive exhibits for Science Museums and Children’s Museums, as well as interactive art. Her on-the-job experiences ranged from woodworking, wiring, and welding to video-editing, website-building, and machine programming to research and development of hands-on exhibits for children. Susan realized her maker spirit through these experiences and has continued to enjoy creating on her own and with her husband, Benji Park, and children (Alice, 9, Ender, 7, Neo, 5, Hazel, 2).
When her 3rd child arrived she turned to mothering full-time and began research into alternative educational pathways. After a few years exploring homeschooling, her older children entered the IDEA School last fall. Susan led an after-school tinkering club at the IDEA School last spring and now joins the IDEA School as a part-time collaborator focusing on Math, Engineering and Design with some cooking thrown in.
Dalziel Dominguez, Robotics, Math, Music and Movement Collaborator
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 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, Design and Woodworking Collaborator
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, Art Collaborator
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, Art Collaborator
Laura Wilson Etter is a Tucson-based artist, writer, and art educator. In addition to working at IDEA School, she is the Visiting Artist at Miles ELC, where she plays and makes giant, colorful messes with students in kindergarten through 5th grade. She also facilitates art workshops combining social justice, kindness, growth, and creativity.
Laura lives with her husband, Micah, and their two children, Sidney and Henson, and a giant dog named Turtle.
Sally Rodgers, Writing Collaborator
Sally teaches part-time at the IDEA School and also is the Executive Director of the Tucson literary nonprofit, Casa Libre. Sally completed her MFA in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Poetry, from the University of Alabama. While pursuing her MFA, Sally was a Writer-Instructor with the University of Alabama’s Writers in the Schools program. Sally was a Graduate Teaching Assistant at the University of Alabama, leading classes on Late American Literature, Intro to Creative Writing, and Composition 101 and 102. Sally also is a veteran of Second Street Children’s School here in Tucson, where she focused on social-emotional development and early literacy.
After two years of full-time teaching at IDEA School, Sally returns this year part-time to share writing activities with our students, building on her successful work over the past two years leading IDEA School students in writing plays, podcasts, poetry and more. Sally is passionate about helping young people build their communication skills, especially in the area of creative writing.
Sara Johnson, Exceptional Education Specialist (volunteer)
Bio coming soon.
Bisbail Kline, After-School Program
Bio coming soon.
Jayme Berge, School Administrator
Bio coming soon.
Jaime Johnson, Co-Director, Language Arts and History Collaborator
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 has her 9-year-old daughter, Tula, at the IDEA School.
David Higuera, Co-Director
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. This year, David is thrilled to be back in the classroom part-time, leading a group of IDEA School students as their Family Group (homeroom) Collaborator.
David is married to Jesse Evans-Schroeder, a local immigration attorney, and they are the proud parents of 9-year-old IDEA School student Elliot, and his baby brother, Samuel.