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.

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 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.

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.

Bahne Kuehne, School Administrator

Bio coming soon.

Katie Kurtin, Family Engagement Coordinator

Katie is excited to join the IDEA school team this year! She has been teaching preschool and kindergarten for 10 years. She is currently in graduate school for her Master’s degree and plans to graduate Spring 2019. Katie is inspired by the Reggio philosophy, collaborative group work, culturally sustaining pedagogies and giving children a voice in their own learning. Katie’s research is around socially just teaching in early childhood settings and she plans to present at a few conferences this year.

Jayme Berge, Accounts Manager

Bio coming soon.

 

 

COLLABORATOR STAFF

Belen Sisk, Early Childhood Collaborator

Bio coming soon.

Carmen Barnes, Early Childhood Collaborator

I am Carmen Barnes, originally from Arroyo, Puerto Rico. I have a Bachelor Degree in Business
Administration from the Catholic University of Puerto Rico and an Associate Degree from Pima College in
Colorado Springs, Colorado in Early Childhood Education. I have been a resident in 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 a bank as a teller, and collection and
also worked as an assistant director in two different preschools in the past.
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. I had been working at St. Mark’s for 5 years; of which, the last 2 years have been as their
official STEM teacher, until recently when I turned in my resignation and accepted the position here at
Idea School.
I also have the privilege of working with the United Way of Southern Arizona as a Community of Practice
Coordinator. In this position, I co-facilitate workshops in STEM for English-speaking cohorts and also
solely facilitate workshops in STEM for the Spanish-speaking teachers. On occasions, I facilitate
workshops for The STEMAZing Project for the 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, I made a video that is available
through searching for THE STEMAZing Project stories on YOUTUBE.
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, Honduras 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, taking pictures of all the desert animals that visit my desert oasis every day.

Laura Wilson Etter, Lower Elementary

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 tests dictated learning opportunities.
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, her 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. She 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

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.

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 new 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 and if the occasion is ripe dance surely follows.

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.

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 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 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 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.

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.

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 20, 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 and Reading Development Specialist.  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. Being at IDEA allows Debbie to be part of a system where children and staff are highly valued and cared about deeply.

 

Sara Johnson, Exceptional Education Specialist (volunteer)

Bio coming soon.