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
Belen Sisk, Early Childhood Collaborator
Belen Sisk is a Native Tucsonan who, along with her family, has inhabited this beautiful desert for more than 5 generations. Of Yaqui descent, Belen is very proud of her roots and continues to educate herself through tribal gatherings, books, and community events.
Belen has been teaching Early Childhood Education for the last 16 years. She received her AAS through Pima Community College in 2007. During her time teaching, she has worked in and collaborated with some of the best schools Tucson has to offer. She attends professional development conferences and workshops yearly, maintains amazing teacher friendships, and (as her husband would say) is an absolute kid magnet! To say her joy of learning through a child’s world is palpable is an understatement.
Belen began her love of teaching through play, outdoor learning, and the Reggio Emilia philosophy at Second Street Children’s School during her first internship under the tutelage of Julia Butler (2003). She returned years later as a seasoned teacher and as a Mama (2011-16). There, she learned to use her background in education and her personal experiences as a mother to create a comforting, secure, and loving classroom alongside her co-teachers and administrators. “I am so thrilled for this new adventure and hope to gain more insights into my teaching as well as offer all that I have to your children’s education experience!”
Dalziel Dominguez, Middle School Collaborator
Dalziel is a 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 of Science in biology with a minor in chemistry.
Before joining IDEA School, Dalziel worked as a tutor both in private and public school settings, working with a broad age range of students who were struggling, and facilitating learning mostly around mathematics. At IDEA, Dalziel has developed his skills and expertise as the Upper Elementary co-collaborator, focusing on math, inquiry, and social-emotional learning, as well as movement and music.
Prior to becoming a classroom teacher, Dalziel worked 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 of years and lived on a local CSA farm learning organic and sustainable farming practices.
Faffs Riederer, Upper Elementary Collaborator
Faffs Riederer (he/him/they/them) grew up attending child-centered, progressive elementary schools in Denver, Colorado. Faffs has a Bachelor’s in Ethnic Studies from UC San Diego and a Master’s in Transportation Engineering CU Denver. They have been a life long activist working on climate change, policing and criminal justice reform, demilitarization, union organizing, and sex-workers’ rights, and transportation and urban planning.
Faffs has worked in various roles in elementary ed including teacher, math and literacy tutor, urban cycling instructor, and digital storytelling coach.
Faffs enjoys making music, short films, animation, comic books, and role-playing games and loves playing basketball, biking, building, and sewing
Faffs’ kids Violet and Sula attended the IDEA School when they were younger and are now in middle school and high school here in Tucson.
Diana Englert, Lower Elementary Collaborator
Diana Englert (she/her) has a passion for teaching and believes that education empowers, inspires new possibilities, and fosters connection. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Built Environments where she focused on food justice, urban planning, landscape architecture, and school gardens. Throughout her studies, she discovered her passion for empowering folks through hands-on, place-based, and meaningful learning.
Diana has a variety of educator experiences in Tucson. She has taught ecology and garden-based education at several different schools in the Tucson and Sunnyside Unified School Districts and has mentored high school and college students in doing the same. During her time teaching at schools, she was a bicycle mechanics instructor at the non-profit BICAS (Bicycle Inter-Community Art and Salvage). While at BICAS, she led group maintenance and build-a-bike classes for adults as well as taught folks of all ages individually in the shop. She most enjoyed her time teaching Youth Earn-a-Bike camps and co-leading the Ochoa Bike Club at the John Valenzuela Youth Center. She was one of the aftercare teachers last year at the IDEA school, and is so excited to teach and learn with the staff and students!
She enjoys learning, gardening, biking, traveling, baking, and spending time in nature!
Debbie Towle, School Counselor and Reading Specialist
Debbie has had the pleasure and great honor of working in the field of education for 35 years. This includes teaching grades K-4, counseling grades K-12, and mentoring new teachers in TUSD. 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 Degree in Education and Counseling. Aside from raising and enjoying time with her daughter Liana, now a young adult, working with children is where Debbie 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 and Reading Specialist, as well as being a Collaborator Coach. 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 to the community. Being at IDEA allows Debbie to be part of a system where children and staff are highly valued and cared about deeply. Debbie also serves as a staff liaison to the IDEA School Board of Directors.
Sara Johnson, Exceptional Education Specialist and Librarian (Volunteer)
Sara is Jaime’s mom and has been a staunch supporter of the IDEA School since it was only an idea! After retiring from TUSD as an Exceptional Education Specialist with decades of experience in the classroom, Sara has devoted her volunteer time and energy toward helping the IDEA School mature and grow over the years. Sara provides professional development support around serving the needs of students with special needs, is our school librarian, and all-around #1 Volunteer. We are so fortunate to benefit from Sara’s passion and expertise. Thank you, Sara!
CO-DIRECTORS and ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF
Jaime Johnson, Co-Director
Programming, Curriculum, and Student Services
Jaime is a co-founder of IDEA School and serves as the Director of Curriculum and Student Services, 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’s role at IDEA School has evolved as we’ve grown, but her heart has always remained in the classroom. Today, Jaime supports her fellow collaborators with planning and assessment, works one-on-one with students who need extra support, and leads daily classes in literature, language arts, and history, with an eye toward helping students build their empathy as well as their literacy and critical thinking skills. Jaime’s calling is to engage students deeply and productively within a safe environment in which they can take healthy risks and be themselves.
In addition to her administrative role, Jaime also teaches in the Upper Elementary and Middle School classrooms.
Jaime’s daughter, Tula, attends IDEA School.
Laura Wilson Etter, Co-Director
Programming, Curriculum, and Student Services
Bahne Kuehne, Co-Director
Operations, Community Impact & Family Well-Being
Bahne brings more than 10 years in non-profit school administration, business development and management, and community volunteerism to her role At IDEA! She helped found and led the Community Montessori School of Bisbee, where she taught in a mixed-age primary school classroom, served as the school’s administrator, and facilitated professional development opportunities for educators and families.
Bahne joined IDEA School during the summer of 2019 as School Administrator, worked with co-founders Jaime Johnson and David Higuera and the Board of Directors on a restructured leadership plan to guide the long-term growth and sustainability of the school, and was appointed Head of School in December 2019. IN January 2021, when Co-founder David Higuera left IDEA to pursue a new job, Bahne’s role shifted again into a Co-Directorship with Jaime Johnson.
Throughout her education, Bahne focused on fostering positive relationships and promoting well-being, social and restorative justice, and environmental sustainability through experiential education. Bahne holds a Master’s in Education Leadership with an emphasis in Sustainable Leadership, and a Bachelor’s in Human Development, with academic focuses in psychology, neuro-development, and holistic and environmental education.
Bahne is a proud member of the Arizona Association of Environmental Education and founded CYAN: Connecting Youth to Art and Nature — a program that aims to empower and support the voice and self-advocacy of children of all ages through art, creative storytelling, and quality time spent in nature. Her philosophy of parenting and education is rooted deeply in holism, mindful observation, and in the four R’s: Respect, Responsiveness, Relationship, and Reciprocity.
Bahne’s family portrait includes her partner in love Dominic, a Science teacher (teaching with the Tohono O’odham Nation), and their six children, Thayer, Jhrma, Hazel, Charley, Stori, and Leaf. As a family, they enjoy reading, listening to music, hiking mountainous terrain, and exploring the diverse ecosystems of the Arizona Sonora Desert. They have 6 fish tanks, a chameleon, and two tortoises. They like to visit plant nurseries and LOVE to watch plants, children, and their animal friends grow!
Jayme Berge, Accounts Manager
Jayme joined the IDEA School in 2017 as our office manager and school administrator, in charge of various aspects of the day-to-day operations of the school. Upon moving to the Los Angeles area with her family in early 2018, she agreed to stay on as a contractor to be the IDEA School’s bookkeeper and accounts manager, ensuring a smooth transition in core administrative processes as we continued to grow. Jayme also works for her daughter’s preschool in L.A. as their bookkeeper and accounts manager, and is thrilled to contribute her experience and expertise to the development of both progressive schools. Before moving to Arizona, Jayme helped run a small progressive school in New York City.
David Higuera, Co-Founder & Board Treasurer
David is a co-founder of IDEA School and serves as the Director of Finance 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 always is looking for ways we can learn from the experiences of others as well as our own triumphs and failures as we grow the school. David is married to Jesse Evans-Schroeder, a local immigration attorney, and they are the proud parents of Elliot and Samuel.