Staff

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

COLLABORATOR STAFF

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!”

Belen has been married 10 years and has an awesome daughter, Olivia Luna.

Carmen Barnes, Early Childhood Collaborator

I am Carmen Barnes, originally from Arroyo, Puerto Rico. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the Catholic University of Puerto Rico and an Associate’s Degree from Pima College in Colorado Springs, Colorado in Early Childhood Education. I have been a resident of beautiful Tucson, Arizona for the past 5 years and have been working with children ages 3-5 for the past 24 years.

Before becoming a preschool teacher, I worked in the business world in banking, and also worked as an assistant director in two different preschools. The experiences in Early Childhood programs brought me back to work at St. Mark’s Early Childhood Center as a STEM teacher. At St. Mark’s, I taught hands-on activities in STEM to children 2 ½ through Kindergarten.  Before joining IDEA School, I worked at St. Mark’s for five years, of which the last two were as their official STEM teacher.

I have the privilege of working with the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona as well, as a Community of Practice Coordinator. In this position, I co-facilitate workshops in STEM for English-speaking teacher cohorts and also solely facilitate workshops in STEM for Spanish-speaking teachers.

I also facilitate workshops for The STEMAZing Project (Office of the Pima County School Superintendent) for Spanish-speaking educators and translate all the materials for workshops and other projects from English to Spanish. The STEMAZing Project has been a tremendous influence in the way I teach and facilitate workshops. For more information on STEMAZing and my involvement with this wonderful organization, check out my STEMAZing Stories video.

The STEMAZing Project has invited me twice to attend and teach their workshops to educators in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, at Museo Chiminike. Ninety (90) Pre-K through High School teachers from Tegucigalpa attended our workshops. Working with this incredible group of educators and DaNel Hogan, director of The STEMAZing Project, has opened many opportunities that enhance my teaching skills. It has been a continuous adventure to this day.

When I’m not teaching or translating, I like to spend time hiking, listening to music, hanging out with family and friends, and taking pictures of all the desert animals that visit my desert oasis every day.

Laura Wilson Etter, Lower Elementary Collaborator

Laura Wilson Etter is a working artist, journalist, general mess maker, and lover of laughter.
Laura’s educational philosophy stems from her family life. As the daughter of a Reggio Emilia-inspired teacher, she grew up with constant opportunities for open-ended, project-based exploration. She was fortunate to receive an amazing education in the public schools in Tucson, in a time before standardized testing dictated learning opportunities. At IDEA School, Laura teaches our Lower Elementary classroom, providing enriching learning experiences for her students across the curriculum including Language Arts, math, inquiry and art, as well as social-emotional learning and development.
After becoming a mother to her two boys, Sidney and Henson, Laura became acutely aware of how every child deserves an educational structure that firmly supports their individual needs and interests. Having a child with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder has made her an advocate for the differences we all possess and has also greatly enhanced the way she communicates with all children.
Professionally, Laura’s path has taken her through a wide variety of areas, including non-profit fundraising, business management, event planning and coordination, mentorship, and education; however, her heart has always been with working with children. She has hosted a variety of art-based workshops around the concepts of kindness, empathy, and community, and spends her summers working in the Art Lab at Playformance. Before joining IDEA School full-time for the 2018-19 school year, she taught art workshops at IDEA and was also the artist-in-residence at Miles ELC, a public school in Tucson.
Laura loves hiking, painting, making, creating, reading, designing, watching movies, and learning, but her favorite thing to do is spend time with her boys, her husband and their 100-pound dog named Turtle.

Dalziel Dominguez, Upper Elementary 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.

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 years and lived on a local CSA farm learning organic and sustainable farming practices.

Dalziel loves movement and martial arts. Growing up amongst siblings and older cousins was a never-ending wrestling match, and in his later teens, he got some guidance from his first martial arts teacher, with whom he studied Karate. Upon coming to Tucson he quickly found his place within the local Capoeira scene and a local Wing Chun Kung Fu school.  Dalziel is also no stranger to expressing himself through dance and song. He enjoys spending time singing, playing guitar, dancing and practicing Capoeira.

Amanda Reed, Upper Elementary 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 Master’s in Elementary Education from N.A.U., worked at Tucson Museum of Art, and taught second grade in Tucson Unified School District. Before joining IDEA School, she taught visual art at the Tucson Museum of Art summer camp and was the Artist in Residence at Continental School District in Green Valley.

At IDEA School, Amanda co-leads the Upper Elementary classroom, focusing on inquiry, Language Arts, social-emotional development, and art.

Amanda is also a working artist. 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. Amanda is the proud mom of Everett and is expecting his baby brother later this fall!

Martha Martin, Math Collaborator

Martha is over the moon excited to be part of the IDEA School team as a coach and collaborator. She has taught children of all ages inquiry-based math for 29 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 facilitated math instruction with students from Pre-K through 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 a 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. 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 U of A. Martha lives with her daughter Lela and their sweet bulldog Penny in a house they remodeled themselves.

Marjorie Miller, Language Arts & Social Studies Collaborator

My husband, David, and I came to Tucson 40 years ago in November after cycling through the Argentinian pampas and the Andes for a few months. We had spent the years previous cycling across Canada and decided that after getting married and venturing on the South American trip, we’d settle in Tucson to finish school and to start a family. We had met in Plattsburgh, NY, a SUNY college from which we both graduated. I earned a Bachelor of Science degree and continued to take graduate classes in Tucson.

I worked in TUSD for 23 years as an elementary school teacher before retiring in 2017. My husband and I have raised two daughters who are both graduates of Tucson High, where David worked as an AP painting and drawing teacher.

I am an avid pedagogist who loves the science of teaching and learning. I’m fortunate to have been married to someone who shared the same passion while we were both immersed in our careers. My goal as an educator is to guide the students in viewing themselves as a born geniuses who potentially have a wealth of intellect supported by emotional intelligence to help humanity along in whatever it is we’re supposed to be doing here.

To support this belief, I see it as my responsibility to teach children to think critically while learning the beauty of language usage and the variety of ways it is expressed. Integration of curriculum is key here as well as the importance for an educator to continue to seek learning for themselves. I love to read a variety of texts and to explore different ideas. I value time spent with family and friends, as well as times of solitude. I’m a kinesthetic individual and have always exercised. Dancing is extremely important to me…something I’ve done all my life.

Liz Prohaska, Science Collaborator

Liz has been teaching inquiry-based, hands-on science to children of all ages for the past 50 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 Master’s in Experiential Education from Vermont College.

Liz joined the IDEA School staff three 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, wildly successful to this day. 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, doing research in the Brazilian Rain Forest.  He is studying the effects of climate change on the Rain Forest.  Liz lives with her husband Jack and their five cats, three tortoises and other animals, in their homemade adobe house in the Tucson Mountains.

Debbie Towle, School Counselor and Reading Specialist; Collaborator Coach

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!

 

ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF

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 supports all the collaborators with planning and assessment, works one-on-one with students who need extra support, and leads groups of students in explorations of literature 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 our students deeply and productively within a safe environment in which they can take healthy risks and be themselves.

Jaime’s daughter, Tula, attends IDEA School.

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 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 11-year-old IDEA School student Elliot, and his younger brother, Samuel.

Bahne Kuehne, School Administrator

Bahne is excited to join IDEA school this year! 

Bahne has over 10 years in non-profit school administration, business development and management, and community volunteerism. 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. She is excited to be collaborating with IDEA School by providing administrative and development support.

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 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 is also the creative director of 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, Charlie, 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!

Katie Kurtin, Community Outreach & Family Engagement

Katie joined the IDEA School last year as one of our Early Childhood Collaborators while completing her Master’s in Education at the University of Arizona, and remains part of the team focusing this year on community outreach, family engagement and support.  She has been teaching preschool and kindergarten for the past 10 years, will be working part of this year out of the country, and is eager to continue to grow her skills in education leadership. Katie is inspired by the Reggio philosophy, collaborative group work, culturally sustaining pedagogies and giving children a voice in their own learning. Katie’s graduate research focused on socially just teaching in early childhood settings and she regularly presents at education conferences across the country.

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.