Meet the Williamsburg Staff
Our Mentors are dynamic, engaging, and inspiring. Each one has taken their own
educational journey seriously and now strives to help others on their way.
Heather BensonMentor & Leadership CoachHeather BensonMentor & Leadership Coach
- Wife, Mother of Four, Grandmother
- Trailblazer, Explorer, Adventurer
- Educator, Mentor, Health & Fitness Enthusiast
- Brigham Young University Graduate International Relations
As a trailblazer, I have a passion for adventure, education, leadership, and lifting others. I love creating, exploring and sharing discoveries. That is why working with Williamsburg Learning is deeply fulfilling.
The most amazing adventure of my life began in 1995 when my family and I moved to Hong Kong where my husband began his career in law. Fresh out of law school with three little children, we chose to educate our children at home. From that point forward, I endeavored to create an education rich in the classics, the outdoors and travel experiences that would encourage unique talents, strengths and leadership abilities, and allow our family maximum freedom to pursue enriching learning opportunities.
My fondest memories are extended trips across the United States and to places like Scotland, Thailand, Macau, Continental Europe, New Zealand and Tasmania where we felt transported to the geographies and histories we had studied as a family.
I firmly believe that every person possesses greatness within them, unique gifts and talents, and the ability to change the world in ways small and great. Life is filled with trails to blaze, worlds to explore, and adventures to be experienced.
Heidi MitchellMentor & Leadership CoachHeidi MitchellMentor & Leadership Coach
I LOVE adventure!!! From studying abroad in Israel and Mexico, living in the Russian language house at BYU, and teaching and exploring in Hong Kong….To marrying my incredible husband, becoming an instant mother to three amazing step-children, and dedicating myself to creating a family. (Several years later, I had two of my own absolutely wonderful children!)
I always knew I wanted to go to college and chose Brigham Young University where I not only graduated in history, but also devoured the whole educational experience. While driving for several hours to our family gathering during my first Thanksgiving break from college, I couldn’t stop telling my parents about everything I was learning in every class I was taking! I love learning, and I love sharing that knowledge and enthusiasm with others.
Through homeschooling my children for eight years, I realized I also love being an advocate for students who want to explore and develop their interests, talents, and unique educational pursuits which is why I am so excited about mentoring Williamsburg students and sharing this enthusiasm with them (and their families)!
I believe that all aspects of our lives are potential adventures fraught with challenges, growth, and ultimately joy as our horizons are elevated, our character is strengthened, and our association with others cultivated. Did I mention, I LOVE adventure?!
Annie FisherMentorAnnie FisherMentor
If I had to make a list of my top three favorite things in life, I would say pizza, pajamas, and French. Ever since I started taking French in the 9th grade, I have been fascinated by the beauty and complexity of the French language. For me, learning French has been both challenging and rewarding, and I want to share the joy of learning with the students I teach. I studied French Teaching at BYU, and while I was there, I was lucky enough to go on a study abroad to Paris and Southern France. After I graduated, I taught middle school French and English at a charter school in American Fork. I have been working with children and adolescents ever since, and I feel like I’m living the dream!
Elizabeth SuttonMentorElizabeth SuttonMentor
There is nothing I love so well as the moment of epiphany that marks when real learning occurs. I love everything about the learning process, but mostly I love the way that my students breathe life into what we’re studying. I find that as I teach, I’m always learning, and I find that cycle deliciously exhilarating. I graduated from BYU with a degree in English Teaching and Japanese; I also pursued a Master’s Degree in Literacy at Utah State University. I’ve spent most of my adult life teaching: Japanese and English Language Arts to high-schoolers, reading skills to elementary schoolers, and a course I like to call “How to be a Person” taught exclusively to my two children.
I currently reside in Western New York where the weather colors everything we do. Here, summer is verdant and I like to camp and hike and fill up on sunshine; winters are long and grey– it feels a little like Narnia. Then, suddenly, a tulip leaf peeks out of the snow, and hope renews: this is spring. Of course, nothing beats autumn. In the shade of gold and red trees, we harvest apples, concord grapes, and giant peaches so full of juice that when you take a bite it dribbles down your chin. I like traveling, being with my family, and when all else fails, a soft chair, a giant bowl of popcorn, and a really good book.
Cara DansieMentorCara DansieMentor
I was first introduced to foreign languages when I was just a young girl and took a mini-course in German. It fascinated me and my journey began. I created my own alphabet with my sisters and wrote notes in that language/code for years. When I hit high school and had foreign language options, I took more German whenever possible and when German wasn’t available, I took Spanish. When I started my college years, I added Russian to the mix. After three years at Utah State University, I had my bachelor’s degree along with a secondary education teaching certificate. After graduation, I served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Even though I was called to the Russia Samara Mission, I started out in San Diego, California speaking Spanish. I then went on to live for over a year in Russia splitting my time there between Samara, Rostov, and Volgograd. After my mission, I had a short career in a traditional brick and mortar high school where I taught all three languages at Carbon High School. During that time, I went with two other teachers and we took a group of our students to Germany for an exchange program. I lived in Hamburg for a month that summer and loved my time there. I “retired” from teaching for a while after I married and then became pregnant with my first child. I couldn’t seem to stay away from languages or education and ended up teaching English as a Second Language for the College of Eastern Utah (now USU-Eastern). Later that year, I was an assistant and lesson developer for my husband who taught Japanese for the same college. After getting all of our ten kids added to our family, five the biological way and five through adoption, I re-entered the teaching field this time in the virtual world. Since then, I have taught for Utah Online, Utah Virtual Academy, Kids On Line Academy, and Williamsburg Academy. I have been a teacher at home as well as I have taught my own children using online resources and schools along with traditional homeschool and local co-ops. I have also been involved in other aspects of education such as curriculum development, assessment creation, website development and management, registration, recruitment and more. I have a passion for children, families, education, cultures, and languages.
Greg LarsonMentorGreg LarsonMentor
It was as a young teenager that I had an experience that produced an epiphany about the direction for my future professional life. In our social studies class, we had an assignment to write a story about pioneers. I had always felt that my teacher was indifferent to me and favored many of the other students. So I determined to prove to him that I was a good student and a good person. With that story, I tried something I had never done before. I determined to write a story the way that my favorite authors wrote their stories and captivated their readers. The story I selected was based largely on my great-grandfather, who, at 12 became the man of the family when his father died. The story had dialogue and descriptions like I had never written before, and though the work was hard, the result gave me a lot of satisfaction. I knew it was very good.
As usual, the teacher read to the class some of the best student work. I sat on the edge of my chair, waiting—but my story was not read. When he handed back the stories, my heart sank when I saw a big, red F on the top. I took my story up to his desk and asked him, “Why?”
“You know why!” he said.
“No, I don’t.”
“Because you copied it from a magazine.”
I assured him I hadn’t copied it. That experience proved to be a gift. I knew I had an ability to write and I set my sails for that direction. During two years in the South Pacific, I decided to apply to a school of journalism, since writers like Ernest Hemmingway started as journalists. I applied to Northwestern University because Medill School of Journalism was the top rated school, but also because I wanted to experience life in a big, urban area like Chicago. Additionally, I wanted to play Big Ten football.
At NU, I met Maya. We married, then raised our four children in the Chicago area. Supporting my family by better paying work, writing became more of a passionate avocation. Nevertheless, I’ve had four books published and numerous short stories and articles. I’ve also done a lot of teaching at a college level and developed workshops for corporations. I’m excited to be mentoring at WA, and hope that I can help many of you, in a positive way, discover some of your great potential, and maybe even your direction in life!
Andrew YoungMentorAndrew YoungMentor
Learning is simply an accumulation of your experiences. Here are the Top 10 experiences that have shaped my life learning to this point.1. My Mom taught that kindness, patience and listening go a long way.2. My Dad taught that you can do anything you set your mind to and remember not take yourself too seriously.3. I am married and have 4 kids. Their learning and life experiences are my number 1 priority and the main source of my education.4. I learned how to read music, play the piano and sing at a young age and have had multiple opportunities to use these skills. I am currently learning how to play the organ and the ukulele.5. I have performed and competed with UVU Ballroom in at least 8 countries. I’ve also directed high school ballroom teams for 8 years.6. Obtaining a B.S. in Biology and a M.S. in Education has taught me that there is a lot to learn from the world and its people.7. I like to design and build things. I designed our current home and did much of the work. The coolest thing I’ve added is a rock climbing wall.8. I spent many summers on a farm and ranch where I learned to love working long hours and how to build and figure things out.9. Even though I have been a high school teacher for over 11 years – my education will never stop!10. I love to be outside!!! Biking, hiking, climbing, paddling, volleyballing, playing, exploring……Bonus: Being hired by Williamsburg Academy. I’m looking forward to this new learning adventure.
Brad MorganLeadership CoachBrad MorganLeadership Coach
I’ve been attending Chaffey College, here in Southern California, for four and a half years, and have loved every class I’ve attended. I am a renaissance man–I never liked being told I can only do one thing, when my dreams didn’t fit that. I am a painter, and a musician, actively selling art, and performing on weekends. I study literature, so one day I’ll be teaching that, while I’ve always loved math and physical sciences, such as trigonometry and astronomy. My education has allowed me to study all the things I’ve ever wanted. I am an avid cinephile, watching a new movie every day. I’ve always been interested in movie production, and screenwriting, that and my paired tenacity to do any and all things has made me a movie sponge. I’ve grown up in Southern California, attended school here in Southern California, however, big moves are on their way, and I simply cannot wait for the change of weather that Oregon has in store for me and my fiance Megan.
Christina ReedMentorChristina ReedMentor
I enjoy teaching Spanish. I enjoy teaching online.
I began speaking Spanish as a child. My dad was a missionary to Mexico for about four years. Getting a
bachelor’s degree in Spanish seemed like a logical step. Later, I studied Russian in an intensive year-long course at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California.
I have been involved with the homeschooling community since 2000. At that time I decided to homeschool my three children. We homeschooled for ten years. After that, one transitioned to college and the other two decided to transition into the local public school system. Now one is in university pursuing a degree in nursing, one is pursuing other goals—all of that homeschooling made her realize that she could be an independent thinker—and one is attending our local community college.
From 2006 to 2012 I taught exclusively online. I enjoy the flexibility that this model of education allows for both students and staff. Many of my students have chosen distance learning as a model of education because they have interests that require a time commitment that conflicts with calendars and schedules of traditional schools. Others like the autonomy that distance learning supports. There are so many good reasons to make nontraditional choices in education.
In 2012 I began teaching in a local community college. Now I am teaching in corporate America, and am enjoying the different challenges that arise. I look forward to working with each of you this year.
Becky PollyeaMentorBecky PollyeaMentor
Since my elementary school days of being pulled out each week for what we called “shy class,” a program to help kids find their voice through creativity, collaboration, and performance, I have been a believer in the power of the arts in education. I love watching students take risks and discover interests and talents they never knew they had. I am amazed as they develop more confidence academically, personally, and socially because of their participation. I hold a BFA in Music Dance Theater and a BA in Theater Arts Education from BYU. I taught and directed theater and music in Utah and Colorado. Some of my favorite outdoor activities are hiking, biking, rafting, and backpacking with my family. I currently live in New Glarus, a quaint little one stoplight town in southern Wisconsin, with my husband Scott and four awesome kids.
Jenelle HowardLeadership CoachJenelle HowardLeadership CoachI am so excited to be joining the Williamsburg team this year!I grew up amidst pine trees in the mountains of southeast New Mexico. I have always loved sports and as a youth I was a competitive gymnast and played baseball, softball, volleyball, ran track and did whatever else I could manage. My first life aspiration as a 7 year old was to be an Olympic gymnast. After graduating from high school I traveled to Australia on the NM all-star softball team and my love of travel took flight! I have since lived for a summer in Ireland and helped lead a student tour through Spain.I attended Eastern Arizona College on a softball scholarship before serving a mission for the LDS church in Los Angeles where I learned to speak Spanish and met my future husband (who was also a missionary there). My husband, Damian, and I were married while attending BYU where I studied humanities. I am deeply passionate about my field and I love that it brings together the most inspiring works of human nature and history. While completing my bachelor’s degree, my three children, Andy, Lauren and Emily, were born making our house quite an exciting place. I still love playing sports and play on flag football, dodgeball, ultimate frisbee, volleyball and softball teams and enjoy hiking and going on outings with my family in our beautiful transplanted home of Washington state.I look forward to getting to know you this year at Williamsburg!
Cebre JacobMentorCebre JacobMentor
I grew up in Northern California as the oldest of six children. We lived in the Redwood Forest and right next to the beach! It was absolutely in every way a fairytale. I spent most of my childhood soaking up the outdoors; I loved laying in the grass, swinging in my hammock, reading books, and talking with friends.
I always knew I wanted to teach. My siblings and I would rearrange the dining room chairs in rows to make a school bus (to get to school) and then a classroom. We would even use small tables to create desks!
After I graduated high school I enrolled at Brigham Young University, with NO idea which subject to focus on. While at BYU, I signed up for more and more mathematics classes. As I continued, I grew to love my math classes, and the connections I could make between them. I loved being able to see how differently each student learned, and I loved applying different methods to the same concept.
I have a very fundamental belief that each student can make those same connections, and that the connections are individual and unique. I believe that with balanced effort between student and mentor, both students and mentors can succeed. What do I consider my success? Helping a student connect and understand a new mathematical concept!
I graduated in Math Education from Brigham Young University in 2012, and taught for a few years in Utah. Now I’m a mom of two cuties and am living in Virginia while my husband finishes graduate school.
Ilarene PattonMentorIlarene PattonMentor
When I was a child, I loved being the “teacher” in any game so that I could boss everybody around. Now that I am actually trained to teach students, I realize that being a teacher is not about being a boss, it is about being a real mentor to help and encourage students to be lifelong learners and find their passion.
I earned my BS at BYU in Biology Education and loved learning about using innovative teaching techniques to engage students and apply science to everyday life. While at BYU I took awesome classes: an entomology course (aka class about insects) where I collected, identified and pinned over 200 insects; a genetics class where I learned all about how human traits are inherited; and a bioethics class where we debated current hot topics in science.
While I was studying, I also had some great chances to travel. I spent a summer abroad in London, living near Hyde Park and soaking up the culture while I took classes. I also had the chance to travel to Sweden with my dad (a native Swede who emigrated in his 20s), to use some of the Swedish that I had been studying at BYU. My recent travels have been closer to home, visiting the great state and national parks in Utah with my family. We’ve recently enjoyed going to Snow Canyon State Park near St. George, as well as the big beauties like Zion National Park.After graduating college, I taught 6th and 7th grade STEM at an International Baccalaureate charter Jr High in Utah until I had my little boy (named William!). I took a couple of years off after he was born, and thought I might take an even longer break from teaching since I couldn’t imagine leaving him all day to teach at a traditional school.Then, Williamsburg came into my life! I first was interested in the school based on the flexibility it would allow for me personally, but I was truly hooked when I met the mentors here and realized what a special, innovative environment they have created. I originally taught 8th grade STEM at WA while concurrently working to develop the Biology curriculum for high school students. When James Ure asked if I would be interested in taking over as Biology mentor the following year, it was a perfect match for me! I am so thrilled to be teaching the subject I love to bright, engaged students who keep me learning and thinking.
Mary MartinezMentorMary MartinezMentor
Trying new things (even if they sometimes blow up) is one of the things I enjoy the most about teaching chemistry. I love helping students see that chemistry can be fun, interesting, and meaningful in their everyday lives. From the chemicals used on the Idaho potato farm where I grew up to the chocolate chip cookies in my oven right now, chemistry is all around us. As a little girl, I would play school on a big chalkboard at my grandparents house. I loved pretending to be a teacher, but it took me several years to realize that I should move from playing pretend school to really teaching. After earning my M.S. in chemistry from the University of Utah, I worked in a biochemistry lab for a few years before finally becoming a teacher. I taught chemistry in a large public high school for 3 years and a smaller charter high school for 5 years before moving to sunny southeastern Washington state with my husband and three little girls. I enjoy the outdoors, being with my family, cooking, and reading. Some of my favorite authors are C.S. Lewis, J.R.R Tolkien, J. Budziszewski, Jasper Fforde, and Patrick F. McManus.
Kimberly McGuireLeadership CoachKimberly McGuireLeadership Coach
Current favorites of my life include dancing, sipping hot chocolate from 7/11, late night talks with best friends, reading soul-impacting books, writing letters, laughing so hard I can’t breathe and gazing at the stars. When I’m not doing any of those things, you can find me at my desk studying. Or sleeping.
I am a student at BYU Provo, majoring in accounting with a minor in ballroom dance. Before that, I attended Williamsburg Academy where I learned important life lessons, gained a leadership education and developed lasting friendships with mentors and other students. I graduated magna cum laud, leaving the legacy of the llama in my wake. To this day, I’m still not sure why the llama ever became popular, but I’m guessing it’s because I may have “accidentally” leaked a video of the mentors doing the infamous llama dance on social media.
BYU is only two hours away from my home in northern Utah. It’s a tiny farming community that doesn’t even have its own post office. I love coming home to visit my family whenever I get the opportunity. We know all the Disney songs, have the funniest inside jokes and throw the best movie nights. I am the oldest of five. We’re all adopted, were homeschooled through elementary/middle school and then attended or are currently attending Williamsburg Academy.
Caitlin MillerLeadership CoachCaitlin MillerLeadership Coach
I was born and raised in sunny Southern California and lived there until I left to serve a religious mission in Japan. I have grown a deep love for other cultures and their beliefs. I love to learn and experience new things. My motto: I’ll try everything once, then I can decide if it’s worth trying again.
I lived in Japan for about 18 months and was able to learn quite a bit of the language, so if you’re wanting to learn a little more let me know! 🙂 I have a passion for learning new things. I will be attending BYU-Idaho majoring in design with a minor in photography, but I probably won’t stop there. I also would love to study the culinary arts, pre-school education, and writing.
I have a love for the outdoors and being active. Hiking, swimming, going to the beach, and running are my go-to’s for relaxation.
I am 5th out of 6 kids, in my family. I love families and think it is definitely important to keep our relationships with our family members strong.
I cannot wait for this school year to begin and I look forward to meeting, learning, and growing with each of you.
Jaylee WillisMentorJaylee WillisMentor
I am a lover of learning, dance, mathematics, and truth. I found my passion for mathematics in college when I realized that it is an art form and a modality for creation. I love puzzles, ideas, and anything else that challenges my mind. I love working with youth and creating environments where people can change their perceptions of themselves and the world around them to perceptions that bring more joy and happiness into their lives.
As a child, I was “everything schooled”. Home-school, no-school, co-op school, private school, charter school, public school, you name it…I probably did it 🙂 After graduating high school at 16, I changed my major three times (Accounting > Elementary Education > Physics > Mathematics Education) before confirming that the beauty and art of mathematics is what I really want to share with the world. I graduated in May 2014 with my Bachelor’s of Science in Mathematics Education with a minor in Physics Teaching and then spent a year teaching at a charter school in Arizona.I grew up in Paradise, a tiny country town in northern Utah, as the oldest of 11 children. I currently live, dance, and play in Tooele, Utah with my super amazing roommates.
Ashlee CowlesMentorAshlee CowlesMentor
I am a writer and a wanderer. Thankfully, J.R.R. Tolkien, one of my favorite authors, assures me that “not all who wander are lost.” If I had to sum up my eclectic interests and experiences in one word, it would be journeys. The books I enjoying reading, the stories I love to write, and the activities I long to pursue in my free time all involve an imaginative transport from one place or time to another. Education is also a journey, and one of the most exciting adventures there is!
My nomadic ways began in childhood, thanks to my father’s service in the United States military and my upbringing as an Army “brat” (a term of endearment, I promise). By the time I turned 18, my family had moved eight times, which enabled me to experience life in almost every region of the mainland U.S., as well as overseas in Hawaii and Germany. Spending my high school years in Europe—and attending prom in a Renaissance castle!—ignited my love of history, literature, and the big ideas that have shaped the Western world, but moving so frequently also involved many tears and challenges…oh, how I wish a portable school like Williamsburg had existed when I was a teen!
The wandering did not stop in college and graduate school. After studying History and Religion in sunny San Diego, I switched coasts and pursued a master’s degree in Theology at Duke University in North Carolina, during which time I also had opportunities to study abroad in Spain, Uganda, Rwanda, and Northern Ireland. Most recently, my husband and I spent a year living in Scotland, where I studied medieval history, literature, and education at the medieval University of St. Andrews. I’ve also spent time working on a novel at the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal in Michigan, where I learned a lot about the “moral imagination” and the value of a liberal arts education—an experience that ultimately inspired me to become a teacher and mentor.
Writing fiction and blogging are my main hobbies, and you can often find me working on a Young Adult, Historical, or Fantasy novel while sipping on a big cup of tea or coffee. To become a good writer you must be a voracious reader, and some of my favorite authors/BFFs include: C.S. Lewis, Elizabeth Goudge, Charles Dickens, Daphne Du Maurier, Ray Bradbury, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. My husband and I live in Colorado (where we’re attempting to finally settle down!) and enjoy hiking, biking, disc golf, movie nights, and road trips.
Rob NoordaMentorRob NoordaMentor
I’m a committed jack-of-all-trades with a wide variety of interests, from astronomy to beekeeping to bookbinding. I run a few websites and own a small publishing company with my wife. I speak Chinese and really bad Spanish. I travel a lot, but mostly in search of Mexican food.
I grew up in Las Vegas, but am currently living in Scotland, where I am constantly freezing and often cry myself to sleep because I can’t find a Taco Bell. I live right by a castle, but haven’t seen the sun in months.
I studied Chinese and Business Management at Brigham Young University, including lots of travel around Asia working with and learning from international businesses there.
My one weakness is my hardcore red-green colorblindness, so I can easily be bested in a game of Uno.
Andrew GreenmanLeadership CoachAndrew GreenmanLeadership Coach
Who am I? I am someone who loves to learn. Education is a life long journey, and I believe that it’s an uphill one. It’s an elevating, enlightening, and empowering adventure. Because it is difficult at times, we need inspiring people to look up to in our lives. I feel blessed to have those role models.
I was public schooled for the majority of my childhood. After my ninth grade in high school, I discovered a new online high school. It was called Williamsburg Academy. Remember the elevating, enlightening, and empowering thing I mentioned earlier? I found this at Williamsburg Academy. I graduated in 2011, and am now thoroughly excited to be part of this great team.
I’m from Burley Idaho, surrounded by great outdoor opportunities. Mountain biking is one of my greatest outdoor passions. I’m a backpacker. I grew up backpacking in the high Uintas and the Sawtooths.
I love to connect with people. When I was in Mozambique Africa for two years, I learned on a deeper level why it is important to connect with people.
Someday soon I will to go back to Africa and help the people there. Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
This brings me back to my love of learning. I really believe that education changes the individual, the family, the community, and ultimately the world. Who doesn’t want to be a part of that?
Laura BakerMentor & Leadership CoachLaura BakerMentor & Leadership Coach
I first learned that I love to teach when I began teaching Taekwondo at the age of 15. I haven’t stopped teaching since. I love the process of guiding an individual as they learn until they know how to teach and guide themselves. If I become obsolete, I have done my job right. My favorite part of teaching is having the privilege to observe the “Aha!” moment that comes when everything finally clicks in a student’s mind. As a child, I loved reading, and I still do. I treasured the opportunity to explore different countries, different times, and different realities through the eyes of another person. When it came time to go to High School, I attended Williamsburg Academy, and I understand what it means to be a “burger.” In addition to teaching and reading, I also love hiking and exploring in nature, jumping in rain puddles, watching black and white movies, and climbing trees.
Abby AlleyMentorAbby AlleyMentor
My name is Abby Alley and I am from Ogden, Utah. I love to travel, see movies, explore and play with friends and family!
I attended Brigham Young University and graduated with a BA in History with a secondary education certification. I studied abroad in London, England where I met my husband, Addison Alley. I spent two years teaching World and Utah History to 6th and 7th graders in an International Baccalaureate (IB) school. While there, I participated in the accreditation process as well as the creation of curriculum for the World and Utah History programs. In late 2012 my husband and I welcomed our first child, Alice, into the family. We moved to Washington D.C. in the summer of 2013 so Addison could attend medical school at George Washington University. We currently live in Arlington, Virginia. I am super excited to be a part of the Williamsburg team!
Stan SzczesnyMentorStan SzczesnyMentor
I have twin loves: classical literature and the guitar. I’ve been playing guitar for 21 years, and teaching professionally for 10. I studied jazz at Cornish College of the Arts, music at Southern Utah University, and private guitar with Howard Schaunzer and Barry Brooksby. I have extensive experience as a performer, and have recorded two albums. I am a student-listener of guitar history and consider guitar to be a spiritual practice by which one may commune with The Beautiful. Such communion includes everything from soft and lyrical acoustic melodies to melting cherub faces with electric madness. My passion for classical literature led me to pursue an MA in Eastern Classics from St. John’s College. I love watching people’s souls expand when studying Lao Tzu, Voltaire and other great thinkers. I have been teaching classical literature online for several years.
I married Lindsay Fife in 2003 and, along with our five little ones, we are living a wild adventure––currently residing near Dallas, Texas.
Lucas ReynoldsMentorLucas ReynoldsMentor
When I was a boy I dreamed of growing up and being a college football star–6’3″, 230 pounds of solid muscle. I was sure I would win the Heisman Trophy and go down in history. Then my dream changed. At age 14 I was given a choice: I could either join the high school football team or become a TA at a local private school. After a few weeks of swinging back and forth I finally made a decision: I wanted to teach. I didn’t realize at the time how much that would shape my life. I never made it to six-feet tall, or even 150 pounds, but I have enjoyed teaching youth with four different organizations in a variety of subjects: from Shakespeare to Economics. Since that day I guess I have never looked back.
Besides teaching, I have many other passions. I love running with my wife, backpacking, and playing with little kids. I also get a lot of satisfaction from taking apart machines and seeing if I can fix them. Oh yeah, and I also really enjoy making homemade Argentine food, where I lived for two years. I believe in living life to its fullest and in finding someone to help every day. In 2013 I graduated suma cum laude with a BA from Southern Virginia University in Politics and a minor in Spanish. My wife and best friend, Catherine, and I currently have no children, but plan on someday having enough kids to warrant a large kitchen table. We currently live in Buena Vista, Virginia.
Dave ReesMentorDave ReesMentor
I have been tutoring math and science for over six years and have been a student of science my entire life. I love explosions, unpredictable chemical reactions, figuring out why stuff does what it does, and eating hot slices of Hawaiian-style pizza. My greatest award in science was being voted “most likely to be a mad scientist” by my classmates at Carbon High. I’m close to finishing a BS degree from Southern Utah University in Physics, Chemistry and Biology, with an emphasis in classical scientific thought. My background in computer technology helps me find fun and unique ways to make math and science come alive in Williamsburg’s online courses.
My wife, children and I live in Cedar City, Utah.
Will MillerMentorWill MillerMentor
Fitness and education are two of my passions in life. I am very fortunate to be able to live out these passions in a variety of ways. I hold a BA in Physical Education from the University of North Carolina Wilmington and an MA in Instructional Technology from North Carolina State University. I enjoy sharing my expertise in Physical Education and Instructional Technology to mentor students and enable them to make healthy living a lifestyle. I strongly believe that students need to experience a healthy lifestyle rather than merely reading about it–that’s why I do what I do.
I live in Wendell, North Carolina with my wife, Emily, our daughter, Lorelei, and our beloved dog, Hawkins. My family and I enjoy living in NC where we are close to both of our families, the beach and the mountains! When I am not mentoring or spending quality time with my family, you will find me running or riding my bike! My favorite races to compete in are the half marathon and the full marathon. I also enjoy most any other sport, playing guitar and volunteering in and around my community.
Sydney MaucotelMentorSydney MaucotelMentor
As a young girl, I could always be found with a book. Reading Harry Potter late into the night was my favorite pastime. But soon I discovered books like To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men. What was this new kind of book that made my gut ache for characters, my mind ask questions that couldn’t be answered by reading the last page, and my eyes see perspectives foreign to my own experience? Whatever this “literature” stuff was, I needed to read it. I followed that desire by studying English Teaching in my undergraduate at Brigham Young University, and British Literature in Scotland and England. The more I learned, the more I craved to share it with others.
While teaching public school and tutoring collegiate-level student athletes, I realized one of the most rewarding experiences is witnessing a student get excited about gaining knowledge. Watching someone grow in confidence about their ability to learn is like the happiness you feel walking down Main Street in Disneyland (and oh how I love Disneyland). It is this process that brings me personal meaning: sharing my own passion for knowledge, modeling learning skills, and in return, watching young learners increase their understanding of self. And the best part? Those students teach me at the same time.
I celebrate literature because I believe in the power of human expression. The study of English is the study of humanity, of connecting with others, and improving our quality of life. This is the passion that fuels my desire to learn and in turn, teach.
I currently live in Arlington, VA with my husband Jordan. We love road trips, biking, watching Pysch, and reading Dracula at bedtime.
Greg DenningMentorGreg DenningMentor
I love to teach like a singer loves to sing, like a bird loves to fly! And I really love associating with youth and young adults. I grew up in a broken home and was out on my own at an early age. Those were tough years and I learned many valuable lessons about life and success. At 16 I started voraciously studying the principles and practices of successful, happy lives. That was 20 years ago and I’m still studying today because I love to learn, and then share what I’ve learned with others. After high school I went to Peru for a couple years. That’s where my love for teaching and philanthropy began.
I returned to the States to graduate from the University of Utah, and began my career as a teacher. A few years later, after my wonderful wife Rachel and I had four kiddos, we decided that we wanted to move to developing countries to help serve and make a difference in the world. Since that time we have lived, traveled, taught and served in Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, India, Alaska, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Costa Rica again, where we currently live with our six children. We have a very exciting and adventurous life! We love spending time with our children serving in humanitarian efforts, playing at the beach, surfing, hiking and exploring.
My personal passions are reading, running, jumping off waterfalls, mountain biking and trying to become the very best person I can be.
Jackie de LaveagaMentorJackie de LaveagaMentor
Words, words, words. They follow me everywhere . . . and I love it. When I was eleven, my family moved into a home just four blocks from the public library. We could have lived in a refrigerator box, and I would not have cared because I spent all of my waking hours at the library. Not much has changed, but I don’t live in a refrigerator box now, either. Instead, I stockpile books around the house. I’ve had the privilege to carve a life path that has kept me buried in books, kids, and education. I earned a BA from Prescott College with multiple areas of emphasis: English, Writing for Publication, and Secondary Education. Soon after, I began teaching college writing courses, while simultaneously editing and publishing a magazine. Over the years, I have mentored thousands of students (from primary school to college) in writing, literature, and drama. I prefer to teach a formulaic style of writing first, because it takes the mystery out of creating articulate written communication. While students master the science of writing, I begin to invite them into the art of writing as well. Working with Williamsburg students has been a delight. They are positive, excited to learn, driven, and self-reliant—every mentor’s dream. To my fellow bookies—some of my favorite authors are Roald Dahl, Alan Paton, Charles Dickens, Peter Kreeft, C.S. Lewis, and Alexis de Tocqueville.
My husband and I have always shared a passion for exciting, engaging, eccentric education, and this drove us to home-educate our own five children. We live in Prescott, Arizona. We have been mostly eclectic in our choices, which makes for a fabulous (yet chaotic) educational journey. My children have benefitted from Williamsburg’s courses as part of their homeschool curriculum. With our oldest nearly out of college, and our youngest turning three soon, I can assuredly say that immersing myself in fabulous education is a calling I love to perpetuate. Some favorite pastimes: hiking, sitting around campfires, book clubs, live theater, going to the beach, traveling, and two-hour family dinners with lots of loud talking and laughing.
Tasha AllredMentorTasha AllredMentor
When I started my first teaching job, a student from the school newspaper interviewed me. She asked me, “What is one word that you’d use to describe yourself?” I thought for a second, and the only word that came to my head was, “eclectic.” I’m pretty sure she didn’t know what that meant, since she spelled it incorrectly, but I really think it’s the only word that sums me up. I like to do a lot of everything. I love learning about everything our world has to offer. Unfortunately, we are not given an infinite amount of time on this earth to do everything, so I have to (try to) focus on a few things. I love music. I play piano, violin, harp, and percussion, and wouldn’t give up those abilities for anything. I also love watching and making movies. I started making my own movies before the days of computer editing, and that was tough, but it’s always exciting to learn something new! I also really enjoy photography, and take pictures of nearly every flower I walk past.
I graduated with a BS in International Business Management and Secondary Education from BYU-Hawaii, and taught business, entrepreneurship, and film at a public school for a few years. It was there that I developed my love for project-based assessment and learning. I currently live near Chicago, Illinois, with my husband, Mike, and my three awesome kids.
Shelly JenkinsCustomer Service Team LeaderShelly JenkinsCustomer Service Team Leader
Growing up I always surrounded myself with good books. Some of my earliest memories are of my mom reading to me from Dr. Seuss and The Berenstain Bears. As a teen, it was not uncommon for me to read two or three books a day! While I don’t have time to do that any longer, I do still love to curl up with a book and see what adventures I get to go on through its pages. How lucky I am to have found an opportunity to work here at Williamsburg where I get to work with amazing people, get exposed to some great books, and interact with incredible youth and their parents!
I currently reside in Northern Utah where I enjoy looking at the beautiful mountains each day. My husband and I are super busy raising and homeschooling nine super awesome kids. There is never a dull moment in our home! In between it all, I also love running through summer rainstorms, sitting around a campfire with family and/or friends, meditating by a river, laughing with my family, and enjoying late night chats with my kids.
Liz KirkHeadmaster and Middle School Co-FounderLiz KirkHeadmaster and Middle School Co-Founder
Several years ago, I met with a fascinating woman to talk about my personal mission in life. She and her husband are among the most prominent of social connectors – friends with several US Presidents, on the Academy Awards committee, active on Capitol Hill. As we sat down in my office in Washington, DC, she helped me open up to the many possibilities for my future. I thought about what I wanted to do next. The answer was so clear to me in that moment and always had been – education reform. Almost in tears, I decided right there that whatever it took, I would find a meaningful role in education. Something totally different than I had experienced in my early years teaching in the public and charter school systems. If there were none, I’d scratch something out for myself.
Within a couple of weeks, I was sitting down with Pete Jensen, James Ure and Erin Mwanje to discuss co-founding the new middle school. Creating the school was among the most difficult and rewarding work of my life. The WA Middle School is a place where my ideals from childhood came alive. I am so excited to take move to my next adventure in the challenging role of Headmaster at the High School. I love working with students and writing curriculum. I love education, and am constantly working on my own! I studied English Literature in my undergraduate program, and earned a master’s degree in Education a few years later. I grew up in Texas and have lived in New York City, Washington DC, and most recently in San Diego. We love travel and I’ve explored China’s political history and Italy’s magnificent artistic history while in those countries. These experiences have helped prepare me for the rich discussions we’ll be having in the classroom, as well as the exciting journey we’ll be taking together this year! I’m so excited to be working with the exceptional students at the Williamsburg Academy!
James UreCo-founderJames UreCo-founder
My educational adventure began when I withdrew from public school in junior high to educate at home. In high school I studied at home and managed my small business for half of the day, and attended the local high school for the other half, where I wrestled and ran cross country and track. I began taking college classes when I was 15, and quit high school my senior year to attend college full time. When I was 19, I went on a pilgrimage to the Islands of Hawaii, where I learned how to relate to people from all over the world and gained an appreciation for diversity and a love for different cultures.
In college I majored in English. After graduating I decided to explore my interest in government and law by going to law school at South Texas College of Law. Even though I felt really out of my league my first semester of law school, I loved my law school experience and ended up graduating in the top 5% of my class. In law school, I studied all I could about constitutional law, became President of the Federalist Society––which won student organization of the year––and hosted speeches and debates with lawyers and judges from around the country, served on the law review, published my first article on the Constitution (the Wikipedia article on the 17th Amendment quotes me!), and won the Dean’s Award for most likely to become an outstanding attorney. My dean didn’t know at the time that I had decided not to practice law because my real passion was education, and my dream was to join other education innovators to build a program that would provide the depth, mentoring, adventure, and sense of belonging for students like me who had chosen an alternative educational path. Educating at home helped me explore my curiosity and develop a strong sense of focus, which helped me succeed in college and law school.
After law school, I returned to the magical Mojave desert in Southern Utah to join my lifelong friend, Nels Jensen, in co-founding Williamsburg Academy, Williamsburg Educational Services, and Elevation Outdoors, and leading the team that developed The Williamsburg Curriculum. Our vision is to graduate tens of thousands of purpose-driven alumni who think wisely, live adventurously, and serve selflessly. Our team of incredibly talented mentors and educators share our alternative educational views and are extraordinarily gifted at creating challenging and inspiring experiences for youth. Working with this team of colleagues is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable aspects of my life’s path. I love teaching and feel honored that in 2012 I was selected as one of the top five online teachers in America. In 2014, I was also honored with the Platinum Award in Online Teaching from the United States Distance Learning Association.
I also love backpacking, hiking, mountain biking, yoga, rock climbing, and running (in 2017 I competed in the Boston Marathon). I enjoy traveling, having outdoor adventures, playing Legos, reading books, building forts, and eating sushi with my wife Angela and our four curious, loving, and hilarious children.
Nels Peter JensenCo-Founder & CEONels Peter JensenCo-Founder & CEO
My favorite people are my family, friends, and students. My favorite things are mountains, bicycles, and books. I love to do any activity that combines my favorite people and favorite things. I also love working with my team at Williamsburg to create high quality and flexible online learning options––options that weren’t available during my youth. Growing up I participated in both homeschool and public school. I am grateful to my parents for introducing me to some of the world’s great literature. Tom Sawyer and David Copperfield are two books that have significantly impacted my life. Although I had many excellent learning opportunities at home and in school, I longed for more interaction with like-minded peers and adults that had expertise in areas my parents didn’t, and were passionate about life and learning. I find satisfaction and meaning in helping to provide a positive and challenging learning environment for our students.
I studied liberal arts in college, and went on to earn an MBA from the Acton School of Business in Austin, Texas. After Acton, I wanted to combine my passion for Socratic learning, educational entrepreneurship, and the outdoors. This led to my work as co-founder of Williamsburg Academy and Elevation Outdoors. I live in Saint George, Utah, with my wife and five children.
Adam HailstoneCMO & Director of LeadershipAdam HailstoneCMO & Director of Leadership
When I was 14 years old, I went through a dramatic change in my life. I realized it was up to me to get an education—no one else was going to do it for me. I say “dramatic” because I went from a student who was dragging his feet and learning practically nothing, to a student who was enthusiastic about learning, life, and having impact. Since then I have sought to help others push through educational, personal and cultural barriers to obtain greater learning. During college I was able to take that desire to audiences around the United States and Canada. With my professors, and eventually on my own, I spoke to groups about education, politics, worldviews and the direction of our society. It was a fulfilling time in my life.
I live in Cedar City, Utah, where I graduated from George Wythe University with a BA in Liberal Arts. After college, I started two small businesses. I had big plans and it was a great learning experience, but something was missing. I longed for the opportunity to once again help people obtain a greater education. Then, a few years ago, I sold one business and closed the other to join the faculty of Williamsburg Academy full time. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I love what I do! I get to help students look at the world, its people, cultures, problems and beauty and show them how to navigate it and the opportunities they have to change it. My goal as a mentor is to help students to look inwardly and see themselves as they really are and then decide to become what they see.
Ben BrownMentor & Lead Course DesignerBen BrownMentor & Lead Course Designer
I started reading about the same time I started talking, and I’ve loved doing both ever since. I have this insatiable hunger to know everything and so I read all sorts of topics––history, philosophy, psychology literature, business, leadership, science, current events, etc. I can’t stop at just learning things though; as soon as I’ve learned something new it wants to come roaring out of my mouth to the first person I see, regardless of how interested they are. So, mentoring was a natural fit for me: it gave me a venue to teach and a reason to learn. I studied liberal arts in college and received a BA from George Wythe University in 2010.
I grew up in a large family on a small ranch in Wyoming, where the weather was cold and windy and the sunsets were beautiful. I got bored with my homeschool curriculum when I was 17 and started attending the local college, where I discovered debate. I went on to win the Silver Award at the Phi Rho Pi National Tournament in 2007, and debate is one of my favorite subjects to teach. During college I spent a summer in Uganda, Africa, teaching teacher development courses to primary and secondary school teachers. I ran from monkeys and warthogs, whitewater rafted the Nile, and wooed a fellow traveler, Ellie. We later married, and now have three kids––Charly, Malcolm, and Murphy––and live in Saint George, Utah. Besides reading, I also enjoy rock climbing, yoga, and Saturday morning hikes with my family, and I have a huge man-crush on Abraham Lincoln. Before I die I would like to rock climb the Great Wall of China, do yoga in a Hindu temple in India, and backpack all over Iceland.
Gary ArnellChief Technology OfficerGary ArnellChief Technology Officer
I grew up in southern California where I gained a love for the outdoors (especially the beach and Santa Monica mountains) early in life. I completed my undergraduate studies at Utah State University, where I studied business and computer science. After graduating I returned to southern California where I worked as a software engineer and project manager. For the last nine years I’ve combined my passion for technology and education, working at schools in California and Utah.
I love teaching at Williamsburg, and––unable to stifle the inner-geek––also oversee all technology concerns for Williamsburg Academy, including the development of our Student Information Services website. I am married to the former Liesl Chambers. We reside with our six children in Cedar City, UT. I love young people and the outdoors–– I’m a volunteer in a local BSA troop and encourage the boys to spend as much time as possible in the beautiful red rock of southern Utah. I enjoy spending time with my family, especially if it involves canyoneering, hiking, backpacking, reading and dancing.